Volunteers survey homeless to get an accurate count in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – United Way of the Plains had volunteers on the streets starting at 5 a.m. Thursday to survey unhoused people in Wichita and Sedgwick County.

The annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count is done nationally to find out how many Americans aren’t living in safe and stable housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has grant requirements that numbers be reported.

The Impact ICT Continuum of Care also uses the information to make funding decisions, study homelessness trends, and increase awareness about homelessness. Impact ICT CoC is a community coalition to end homelessness in Wichita led by United Way of the Plains.

The community impact manager for United Way of the Plains says there are lots of obstacles in order for unhoused people to get themselves out of homelessness.

“I believe most people want to have a house that is their own. But the obstacles can feel insurmountable as you think of all the things that have to take place to be able to achieve that goal,” Community Impact Manager for United Way of the Plains Matt Lowe said.

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One of the volunteers says it can be an uncomfortable conversation to have with a complete stranger, but it’s part of the process.

“Just having someone feel comfortable talking about somethings that an uncomfortable topic that they’re not proud of,” volunteer Brian Kerschen said.

Kerschen also said he got some good feedback from the people who were comfortable talking with him about their situation.

“So those folks who were willing to talk open and honest about where they were going and what they were needing. The survey is pretty detail-oriented, so it kinda took us through that,” Kerschen said.

The results from January 2023 said there were 702 unhoused people living in Wichita-Sedgwick County; the numbers for 2022 showed 690 homeless people in the area. The results for Thursday’s count won’t be available for several months.

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