WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - Homelessness in Wichita is changing, evident in a new point-in-time homeless count total that says there are fewer homeless people in Wichita this year versus last year. However, the same report found that more of those that are homeless are also unsheltered. 

“I go to Open Door...that’s one of the best ones, because you can sit in there half the day until 2:30, and they do help,” said Chari Koch, a homeless person in downtown Wichita. 

Koch has been homeless in Wichita for years - she says it's difficult, and sometimes scary, but she’s grateful for the resources the city provides. 

 

“I just don’t think it’s right to stereotype. Because everybody has problems, you might lose a job and then become this way, but I don’t think it's always our fault,” said Koch. 

For 24 hours on January 25, 2024, a record number of volunteers took to the streets of Wichita to count the number of homeless individuals that live in the community. They also collected important demographic information. All this is used to create a plan that allows local non-profits to combat homelessness more strategically.

“People are really embracing the idea that homelessness is a community problem, and it’s gonna take all of us working together to solve it,” said Matt Lowe, United Way of the Plains. 

Lowe works for United Way of the Plains- the organization that runs the count every year. This year volunteers counted 691 homeless people, which means Wichita saw a decrease of 12 homeless individuals from last year. However- the unsheltered portion of the homeless population increased 25%

“Honestly it's about a 50% increase over two years because the year prior to that we were about 125 unsheltered so that is a trend that we’re seeing that more people are experiencing unsheltered homelessness in our community which is a grave concern to us as a nonprofit,” said Lowe. 

It's unclear why the number of unsheltered homeless people has increased- could be a lack of shelter space or transportation. One other potential cause? 

“In the last five, six years [we’ve] seen a whole lot more untreated mental health and substance abuse and that’s because there’s less and less treatment options,” said Deann Smith, executive director Open Door.

 

 

Nonprofits like the Lord's Diner and Open Door provide resources for those in need. 

“If you go to Open Door they have housing, they’ll help you with housing, they'll help you get your ID, they got showers, they got food,” said Roland Bennett, a homeless individual in downtown Wichita.