The Wichita/Sedgwick County Taskforce to End Chronic Homelessness studied homelessness between 2006 and 2008 and made several recommendations to help reduce homelessness in our city. Among those recommendations was the coordination of services already available to the homeless.
It recommended a resource center that would serve as a central location to connect with the homeless who have no phone, no address, no transportation and often no idea of how to access the services that can help them regain housing and self-sufficiency.
In response to the task force recommendation, Open Door, a nonprofit social service agency related to the United Methodist Church, stepped up to coordinate such a facility on behalf of the community. As part of this work, Open Door began a capital campaign to raise sufficient funds for this community effort. It has raised enough so far to purchase a building at Second and Topeka and begin renovations. Interior demolition, including asbestos removal, is finished.
The new homeless Resource and Referral Center, when complete, will offer greatly expanded space and capacity for services that the Open Door Drop-In Center traditionally has offered, including daytime shelter, showers, laundry, storage for belongings, lunch, mail, telephone, case management and referrals. But it will offer far more than that, because a number of other agencies will be on site to address additional needs.
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Sedgwick County's Comcare mental health division for the homeless will be in the building, as will the city's Housing First program for the chronically homeless. GraceMed and Hunter Health Clinic will staff a medical office. Office spaces will be available for other agencies, such as Veterans Affairs, the Mental Health Association's Compeer program, Miracles Inc. (addiction services), the Wichita Children's Home and others that may want to have a presence there. There will be an education classroom for activities such as high school equivalency classes and job-readiness training.
Colocated services will mean that anyone who becomes homeless won't have to search for help, access won't be limited by lack of transportation, and services can be more easily coordinated.
Because we believe the resource center is a necessary step toward greater agency collaboration that will increase effectiveness and efficiency, Advocates to End Chronic Homelessness would like to strongly encourage our entire community to support the fundraising efforts for the completion of the new Open Door Resource and Referral Center. Of the $5.4 million budget, less than $1.3 million remains to be raised. (To help, call 316-265-9371.)
The ultimate goal of this type of facility is not to maintain individuals in homelessness but to help them return to self-sufficiency. When in place, this project will benefit our entire community by reducing homelessness, and it deserves everyone's support. Please consider giving your support to finish this project, so that together we can make a difference for those who find themselves without a home.