Homeless demonstration near City Hall

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Advocacy groups across the country have named the Winter Solstice, December 21, to be National Homeless Awareness Day/Night. This year, it took on a special meaning in Wichita. Thursday night was one of the coldest evenings in months in the area, and volunteers used the night to distribute supplies they'd collected to the city's chronically homeless.

"I usually sleep on the street or at the shelter," said Michael Valentine.

He considered himself lucky to an extent. Thursday night he had a friend who was going to let him stay the night. But usually, he's forced to sleep and live on the streets. He stopped by the group of volunteers stationed outside of Wichita City Hall.

"I dropped out of high school and got into drugs really bad," Valentine said. "I'm just trying to turn my life around and get back on the right track."

He's one of 575 chronically homeless in the city, according to a survey released in part by The United Way earlier this year. 

So as the temperatures dropped, homeless advocates in the city and church groups like Deuteronomy 15:10 stepped up. They collected blankets, scarves, gloves, boots and coats and started handing them out to anyone who approached them.

"Everybody has a story," said Matt Humphrey, one of the volunteers. "Everybody has a perception that everybody's either a drunk or too lazy to work.  It's not true."

Other volunteers, like Allen Stoker, are homeless themselves. Stoker said it's vital for him to try to help others, especially in dangerous weather. He admits he'd hoped for more volunteers to show.

"I really wanted members of the city, religious and civic organizations to come out and sit down and meet individual people," Stoker said. 

Those volunteers were outside City Hall overnight, also bringing food and warm drinks to offer.

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