Community leaders at the June meeting of the Wichita Homelessness Task Force were unanimous in rejecting the idea of establishing sanctioned encampment areas for people experiencing homelessness.

Concerns about sanitation, security, health services, trash disposal, bathroom facilities, were all cited as reasons that sanctioned encampment areas just do not work. 

Meanwhile, Wichita Housing Director Sally Stang said the effort to create a one-stop shop that provides access to services and transitional housing is moving forward with the selection of a development partner.

Service providers presented a panel discussion on their efforts to be collaborative in their efforts to provide supportive services to special populations, each  with a variety of needs, including homeless veterans, children aging out of foster care, those in need of health care or mental health services, families with children and those with a spotty rental history who have trouble finding a landlord willing to rent to them.

LaTasha St. Arnault, president and CEO of Humankind Ministries, said providers also battle the misconception many people have about the homeless: such as they are lazy, they want to be homeless, etc.

“In reality, there is no such thing as a typical homeless person,” she said. “We have seen lawyers, college-educated professionals and more.” 

Many of the homeless are employed full-time and still can’t find housing they can afford, she said. 

“The  root cause of homelessness is a lack of affordable housing,” she said. 

Denise Lawson with USD 259 talked about the intersection of homelessness and the schools, including the special circumstances of homeless children who are not in the custody of a parent.

“Our challenge is to make sure that all kids get the resources and services they need,” she said.

The next meeting of the task force will be July 26 at 3:30 p.m. in the  Advanced Learning Library. 

At that meeting, the discussion will focus on the factors or criteria that need to be considered as the city makes a decision on the location of a homeless navigation service center that will induce non-congregate shelter and affordable housing, co-located with a year-round 24-7 emergency shelter.