WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The work Officer Nate Schwiethale and the Wichita Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team has done for the last six years earned them an invite to Washington D.C. last week to attend the National League of Cities conference.
“To analyze what we were doing and and how they can take what we’re doing and go nation wide,” said Officer Schwiethale.
He and Mayor Jeff Longwell met with senators and researchers to share Wichita’s model of responding to the crisis. Officer Schwiethale says chronic homelessness is down 86 percent in the city since the HOT team was created. Focusing on decriminalizing homelessness plays a big part in its effectiveness.
“A jay walking ticket or something like that we can let that slide, if they are willing to work with us and get into a shelter,” said Officer Schwiethale. “That’s more important working on the reasons why there’s homelessness not trying to stack on more fines and tickets.”
He said his team still has a lot of work to do, but he is proud the team and Wichita is a model for cities around the U.S.
“It does have a lot of pressure that a lot of eyes on you it’s very humbling but at the same time it feels good and shows that our city is doing great work as well,” said Officer Schwiethale.