TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Homelessness is an issue Kansas lawmakers are addressing.
A special committee met at the statehouse on Thursday to talk about the impact on cities across the state and possible solutions. The issue has gotten so bad that the homeless are being sent to Lawrence, where it is becoming a growing problem.
“People are being transported,” Rep. Susan Humphries, R-Wichita.
Law enforcement officers say that some are being sent across county lines to areas that may have more resources. Even in those bigger cities, resources are running low.
“When someone in a different agency gets tired of dealing with a certain individual, it’s not uncommon. I’m not going to name names of which agencies or however, for them to be driven to the county line and dropped off and pointed in the direction where they can find more resources, and then they get there, and they realize the resources they were promised don’t exist. And, then, they’re stuck,” said Sgt. Matt Rose, Topeka Police Department.
Lawmakers are getting feedback from stakeholders across the state. It includes business owners who say they’re struggling to deal with the rising homeless population.
“After I got chased and spit on in my car, and I asked LPD what I can do to keep myself and my staff safe going to and from work, they told me that I needed to carry a gun,” Sarah Hill-Nelson, The Bowersock Mills & Power Co. in Lawrence, said.
Some of the issues to be considered include services for mental health and drug use.
“Stop enabling it. It is fact that they can stay on the streets, use drugs, break the law,” David Hawley, Papa Keno’s Pizzeria owner, said.
“No one is above the law, and we have got to deal with that aspect as we move forward,” Sen. Rick Kloos, R-Berryton, said.
Some groups are working on addressing housing issues.
“They can’t pay their rent, or they can’t pay their mortgage, and they fall behind, and they become evicted,” Christina Ashie Guidry, Kansas Statewide Homeless Coalition, said.
Others are hoping to place limits on panhandling. Some fear that it enables people who are homeless as opposed to helping them.
“We are not addressing the source that is going on, and I think that really gets down to what is happening in our communities and our families,” James Whitford, Watered Garden Ministries, said.
It is hard to track just how many are homeless in Kansas. Last year, the Kansas Statewide Homeless Coalition counted just under 2,400 who were homeless in just one night.
To watch the full meeting, click here.