WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Several people have recently reached out to KSN News about all the trash they see along the river in downtown Wichita. They say it comes from people setting up camps along the river.
A KSN photojournalist went to the river to investigate and found large quantities of trash within site of the downtown area.
Megan Lovely, with the City of Wichita communications office, said the City is also getting complaints of trash caused by homeless camps.
“What we do when we get the notifications is we put a 72-hour notice, and then our Homeless Outreach Team goes and tries to connect those people at those homeless camps with services,” she said. “After that 72-hour notice, we do try to get crews out there to clean those up. We contract out for that work.”
Lovely said that after people move out, they are “welcome to move back into the area, which is what we are increasingly seeing.”
The City has money in the budget for the cleanups.
Mayor Brandon Whipple said the City wants people who are experiencing homelessness to get the services they need to get back on their feet.
“We have been working diligently the last few months to come up with a plan to not only work alongside our partners who are working this, this space but also to figure out how we can also have a more purposeful effective role in this space,” he said.
“But I do want to remind folks that we have contracted with HumanKind which is to have 24-hour shelter available, particularly when the weather turns very cold,” Whipple said.
City crews and volunteers also have pocket-sized information sheets they can hand to people. The sheet includes a map of where services are located and details about the services.
“Our goal is to do better than just have folks feel like that a camp is their only option,” Whipple said. “It’s to get, to actually solve the variables that causes chronic homelessness and unhousing. So, we’re working on that issue. This is an issue that every major city has, has struggled with.”
The mayor said the City’s goal is to get to functional zero over the next few years.
“Functional zero means we have more people leaving homelessness than we have entering homelessness,” he said.