Several hundred people gathered Thursday in Expo Hall at Century II for the fifth annual homeless count and services event.
The exact number of people who are homeless in Wichita may not be known for several months, said Delane Butler, spokesman for United Way of the Plains.
“Determining that number comes from how many are here today, how many are at area shelters and how many are counted in our street outreach – going into places individuals have been known to be staying,” he said.
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Last year, 631 individuals were counted. In 2013, the number was 558, and in 2012, there were 550 people who were homeless in Wichita.
As people checked into the Expo Hall, volunteers interviewed them to help provide information for housing and supportive services. There were several booths where volunteers handed out socks, hats, gloves, toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap and more.
“I got some food items,” said Tyrone Guillot, 32. “I’m a vegetarian, and it’s hard when you got no money. Instead of eating meat, I often fast or go hungry.”
Area health organizations – including Guadalupe Clinic, University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita, Mt. Gilead Missionary Baptist Church, the Lions Club and Wichita State University – conducted screenings to help determine health needs or handed out supplies. There were vision, hearing and dental screenings and flu shots.
One area had free massages; another free haircuts. Still another related to veterans services.
“In the interview process, we ask how long have you been homeless? Have you been homeless before? What condition might have led to this – health, job loss, family?” Butler said.
The event on Thursday was sponsored by a number of community organization as part of the “Everybody Counts” Point-In-Time Homeless Count. The United Way of the Plains helped coordinate the event.
According to Guillot, he had a “cool checkup and I passed the vision and high blood pressure tests,” he said. “I think it is very nice of the city of Wichita. I appreciate what they did for me today.”