The affordable housing crisis is a nationwide problem and a significant cause of homelessness in the United States. In Kansas, there are only 41 affordable homes available for every 100 extremely low-income (ELI) households. Of those 41, 70 percent are “extremely cost burdened,” meaning they spend more than half of their income on housing.1
The affordable housing crisis in Wichita, KS specifically, isn’t much better, with an estimated shortage of 50,000 affordable housing units. This in part has led to nearly 600 people in the city without a home2 and 16 percent of people (62,000) living below the federal poverty line—vs the national average of 13 percent.3
“It’s our responsibility to do what we can, even when it doesn’t seem like enough.”
While these numbers aren’t new to us, it’s easy to feel helpless when we see them in black and white. But our CEO Bill Williams reminds us that “It’s our responsibility to do what we can, even when it doesn’t seem like enough.”
Thanks to the City of Wichita and generous community partners, our acquisition of the former 316 Hotel gave us the ultimate opportunity. One that addresses two chronic problems in our city—the need for immediate shelter and the affordable housing crisis.
While the building is destined to provide permanent affordable housing, the lobby has already been converted into a temporary 24-hour women’s homeless shelter. Typically, we operate an emergency winter shelter for women from November to March on our main campus on Market St. But with the hotel building at our disposal and not in use, we have an opportunity to provide shelter for women for a slightly longer period.
The facility will provide shelter, food, showers and laundry through spring of 2021. As in previous years, the women’s shelter will revert to an emergency winter shelter within Villa Courts from November 1st.
In summer 2021 the hotel building will begin operating as The Studios at HumanKind—an affordable permanent housing facility. The Studios will bring our total of affordable housing units to more than 150.
As well as a home, residents will also benefit from access to life skills classes (also available to non-residents) and extensive case management—sometimes overlooked as an important piece of the puzzle but often the difference between building a new life or returning to the streets.
At HumanKind we look not only to address the immediate needs of our clients but to empower them to build a life beyond HumanKind. Affordable housing is a milestone on that journey to—or back to—independent living. A permanent residence makes many things accessible that once were lost to the streets: health and social care, civic engagement and perhaps most critical in breaking the cycle of homelessness—job placement.
The renovation of the 316 Hotel building also presents an opportunity to invest in the Broadway Corridor—an area plagued by high crime rates and dilapidated buildings. It’s also an area that has seen some meaningful work by community partners in recent years. The Wichita Police Department’s Broadway Corridor Team has worked hard to improve police relations and their partnership with Kansas Food Bank has helped community engagement, especially in the five schools in the area.
HumanKind was founded 135 years ago on the principle of unity—the Broadway Corridor Team and HumanKind’s Studios project are great opportunities to demonstrate how lifting up those struggling can lift up the entire community around them.
The HumanKind temporary 24/7 women’s homeless shelter is situated within the former 316 Hotel building on 1011 N. Topeka St. It is open now and will remain open through the spring. The Studios at HumanKind will open in the late summer at the same address.
If you’d like to learn more about the issues facing our clients, and some simple actions you can take to make a difference, visit humankindwichita.org/get-involved/advocate/
If you’d like to donate to support this exciting initiative click here.
1 NLIHC tabulations of 2018 ACS PUMS
2 United Way of the Plains Point-In-Time Homeless Count, Sedgwick County, 2020
3 The Census Bureau ACS 5-year estimate, 2018