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Number of homeless increases in Sedgwick County, survey shows

Alexis Bateman, a student in accelerated nursing at Wichita State University, helps Billy Goering select toiletries during a homeless count in January for the Sedgwick County area. (Jan. 28, 2016)
Alexis Bateman, a student in accelerated nursing at Wichita State University, helps Billy Goering select toiletries during a homeless count in January for the Sedgwick County area. (Jan. 28, 2016) File photo

The number of homeless people in Sedgwick County continues to rise, but officials were nonetheless encouraged by the results of the annual homeless count in January.

The Wichita-Sedgwick County Point-in-Time count on Jan. 28 showed there were an estimated 571 homeless people, up 10 from the same date in 2015. While the 2016 figure isn’t the highest number in the past five years, it’s still nearly 50 percent more than the 384 homeless residents counted in 2009.

But the number of chronically homeless fell nearly 60 percent, and the number of homeless veterans fell more than 20 percent, the count showed.

“It definitely is a good sign,” Delane Butler, vice president of marketing for the United Way of the Plains, said of the decreases.

The number of chronic homeless has fallen from 94 to 39 in the past year, a decline Butler credits to two efforts targeting that group.

571 homeless people in Sedgwick County in 2016

The United Way has been facilitating regular meetings with staff members from local homeless shelters and programs to identify the chronically homeless – those with a disabling condition who have been homeless for at least 12 months over the past three years – and “looking at what can be done to get with those individuals and get them moved into some permanent housing that will meet their needs.”

One of those housing options is what officials call “permanent supportive housing,” which utilizes case workers to provide services “so they are getting the help that they need,” Butler said.

384 homeless in Sedgwick County in 2009

The agency actually helped 81 people who met the definition of chronically homeless in the past year, he said, but more than 20 were identified and assisted between the counts.

The number of homeless veterans in the county dropped from 59 to 46, a decrease of 22 percent.

The Wichita-Sedgwick County Continuum of Care, a coalition of community organizations, conducted the annual homeless count under the coordination of the United Way.

Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger

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