WPD Homeless Task Force Hits The Streets

By: Jared Cerullo Email
By: Jared Cerullo Email

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Some local law enforcement officers are taking unusual steps in helping the homeless get off the streets. Right now, they are hearing from Colorado Springs Police, who came up with a program that has, so far, helped more than 600 homeless people off the streets. Wichita Police are hoping for similar results.

"He's been out here 35 years and I've been out here 25 years," said Fred Linker as he talked about he and his friend Barry Bird. "It's not nice out here."

Bird and Linker are homeless. They've heard of the success in Colorado Springs and believe Wichita should utilize one of many abandoned buildings in order to help the homeless.

"With all the buildings they've got, they could do the same thing," Bird said. "No alcohol, no drugs. Have security there. That way, they can go out and look for a job or get social security disability, or whatever."

About 30 local law enforcement officers are listening to how Colorado Springs Police cut their chronic homeless population in half over two years, despite the homeless population having little trust in police.

"When we initially went in, we'd walk into the camp, they'd run out the back," explained Colorado Spgs. Police Officer Brett Iverson. "So we decided to go plain clothes, take off the uniform and the badge and really sit down and make those relationships."

Officers Nate Schwiethale and Greg Feuerborn are now working full-time on homeless outreach training. HOT, for short. They will be in charge of coordinating with street level officers.

"We know there's a need. There's a way to do it," Schwiethale said. "It's something our mission statement specifically says. Quality of life issues for everyone and that includes the homeless."

The Wichita HOT program is a pilot program that has been funded for one year. After that, the department will take a look at the results and determine whether or not to continue it.

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