WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Concerned residents in northeast Wichita packed City Hall on Tuesday to raise concerns about a temporary homeless shelter. The council voted 7-0 to approve the $685,000 in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds for the shelter through March 31, 2024.
PLAN FOR LOCATION
HumanKind Ministries and Sally Stang, with the City’s Housing & Community Services Department, provided information to the council on how the site came to fruition.
The new shelter would cost $885,000. HumanKind would provide $200,000 to cover supplies, equipment, beds and setup.
LaTasha St. Arnault said the $685,000 would cover staffing, including 35 to 40 full- and part-time staff, security, utilities, and other associated costs. The goal is to have the shelter open by late November or early December.
Residents in northeast Wichita, a director with TOP Early Learning Center, religious leaders, area organizations and a HumanKind volunteer provided their thoughts to the council during public comments on the issue.
“Northeast Wichita has if not only the largest disadvantaged population, very close to it. 67214 zip code is the most impoverished in the state, but you want to bring more stuff over here and add to the stress of life that we are already contending with,” said Aujanae Bennett, president of the neighborhood association in Northeast Millair. “So you talk about compassion, where is your compassion for us? I see none. I see none.”
Bennett asked the council to reconsider their actions and plans.
Cornelia Stevens, the executive director of TOP Early Learning Centers, addressed the concern about children’s safety at their center, which will be next door to the winter homeless shelter.
“Although I understand the need for temporary housing for the homeless, especially during the winter, I’m sure you can understand our questioning and decision of placing a temporary homeless shelter next to a child care center,” said Stevens. “My first responsibility is to protect the well-being of the children that we serve and the staff who work for us. As executive director, that is my first charge.”
Others also addressed the council before public comment wrapped up. To see the full discussion click here to watch the meeting.
Council member Brandon Johnson represents the District 1 community and said everything happened quickly and was not communicated among residents.
“This shelter being there, I understand, is not my preferred location,” Johnson said. “We talked about everything. TOPS is 630 feet away. You got the Boys and Girls Club down there. As I indicated, my daughter goes to the Boys and Girls Club,” Johnson said. “It is winter. Vice mayor has been talking about this. The mayor has been talking about this. The council, the county commission for months. When things didn’t happen in the way that we hoped and the location that we wanted, this location popped up. We had a decision to make as well.”
KSN News will continue to follow all the developments on the story.