Beds arranged for the homeless at Humankind’s 2023 Emergency Winter Shelter. This year, they expect to have beds to accommodate 250 people at their shelter to be located this year near 21st and Grove

Key Points:

  • – HumanKind Ministries seeks workers and volunteers for 250-bed winter shelter.
  • – Emergency shelter to operate 24/7, provide meals and explore mobile showers.
  • – Location protested by African-American Council of Elders; not permanent solution.

HumanKind Ministries is moving quickly in the effort to hire 35 to 40 part-time and full-time workers to help with the operations of the temporary 250-bed winter shelter for the homeless that they are working to set up in the recently vacated Fundamental Learning Center at 2220 E. 21st Street on Opportunity Drive.

Hundreds of volunteers are also being sought to help with serving meals and running the clothing closet at the site.

With winter bearing down, workers are scrambling to get the shelter ready before very cold weather sets in.

Assistant City Manager Troy Anderson said there’s no set date for when the emergency shelter will open, but he expects it to take at least three weeks to acquire the equipment and supplies and furnish the space. “Realistically, we’re probably talking the end of November, first of December,” Anderson said. 

The $885,000 budget will support 22 weeks of 24/7 operation at the facility, which is to be gated and staffed with security personnel at all times, he said. The city is contributing $685,000 and HumanKind Ministries is dedicating its entire $200,000 winter budget. 

This year, the former Fundamental Learning Center at 21st Street and Opportunity Drive has been approved as the location for Humankind’s main Emergency Winter Shelter.

The emergency shelter will provide three meals a day, and options for on-site mobile showers are being explored. 

City Bus Route 28, which originates at the transit center and runs along 21st Street, will be free to riders while the emergency shelter is in operation, Transit Director Mike Tann said.

The African-American Council of Elders have protested both the location of the shelter and the way it was announced without input from the surrounding community. 

The location on Opportunity Drive is next door to the TOP Early Learning Center daycare and preschool, down the street from the Boys and Girls Club, and only a couple of blocks away from Gordon Parks Academy, a magnet elementary school serving grades K-8.

That puts the shelter in the midst of an area where hundreds of children are coming and going and playing outside.

It’s also an area where there are very few resources available to help residents of the shelter.  HealthCore Clinic, the nearby medical facility, is not open weekends or evenings. There are no nearby parks or recreation centers.

While the shelter will be open 24-7, its 250 residents will be free to come and go – but neighbors wonder where the residents will go?  

Families and minors will not be served at the Opportunity Drive location.  

“We’re diverting single men and single women to this singular location, and then that is going to free up our 60-bed facility, and we’ll be devoting a large portion of that to families experiencing homelessness,” said Humankind President and CEO LaTasha St. Arnault. “While there remains numerous details to be worked out in the short-term, today is just the beginning of what we jointly hope to be a long-term solution to make homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring in our community.” 

HumanKind and city officials both offered assurances that the site will not be used for a permanent shelter, meaning that the search is still on to find a building that can be used until a comprehensive service center can be built – a project that is expected to take three years to achieve.

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Contributing: The Wichita Eagle & the Wichita Journalism Collaborative

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P.J. Griekspoor is a semi-retired veteran journalist with 55 years experience in writing and editing in Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina and Wichita.  She spent 18 years at the Wichita Eagle...

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