Park renovation displaces homeless feed

From the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum:

Heritage Square was created in 1976 when the police station, then located at the site, was razed and preparations were underway to renovate the old City Hall building for use as the Historical Museum.

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WICHITA, Kan. — A local homeless dinner is moving locations - but not by choice.

For years, the One Spark Foundation has been feeding the homeless at Heritage Square, located just to the east of the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum. That's all about to change.

The museum recently submitted a proposal to the Wichita Board of Park Commissioners, asking for a five-year lease to improve and renovate the Heritage Square parkland. The proposal was approved, but the renovation will result in parts of Heritage Square being temporarily closed - displacing One Spark's homeless feed.

"I feel for the inconvenience there," said Eric Cale, director of the museum.

The proposal calls to expand the use of Heritage Square by building upon its original concept as a complement to the museum, including adding exhibits.

"We don't expect to recreate it exactly, but would like to see something that has wider use, more diverse use and is frankly more accessible to the public and to the groups," Cale said. He continued, "It takes it off the city's costs, their expense sheet because we'll be doing all the maintenance and care for it."

But David Hill of the One Spark Foundation sees it differently.

"They voiced it to us for years that they didn't want the homeless there," Hill said. "What they did is they took a currency called money to force them out and I think that's a really sad deal that we've allowed that to happen."

The homeless feed will be relocated to a park near Douglas and St. Francis, but Hill said the city has made the group jump through hoops - like permits and insurance - just to feed the homeless.

"If they have an issue with them, 50-55 percent of the people we feed are prior military, so they must have a problem with the military," Hill said.

So far, the museum has raised $200,000 to make the changes at Heritage Square. Director Cale said they're still in the visioning process on what should become of the park.

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