HumanKind Ministries is committed to providing shelter, case management, and basic needs to help individuals address their unique challenges so that they can build brighter futures for themselves and their families. We must also look at the bigger picture of how our clients end up on the streets and in poverty, and address those challenges. Below are some of the most pressing issues facing our clients, along with action steps. Join us and together we can end homelessness in Wichita.
Individuals with poor mental health are at an increased risk for homelessness. More than 45% of those facing homelessness suffer from a mental illness1; at HK, this number is estimated to be closer to 70-80%. Mental health affects all aspects of an individual’s life—obtaining and keeping employment, problem-solving skills, life-coping events, and other necessary skills needed to stay off the streets. Unfortunately, those with poor mental health in our community are left without many options. Wichita has a 68% shortage of mental health professionals1 and no local in-patient treatment for mental health, with the nearest facility in Osawatomie over two hours away. Additionally, our region needs 221 more beds to stabilize the off-balance system2.
Action Steps: Contact your local and state representatives to see what they are going to do to meet this gap in mental health care. Find contact info for your representatives here.
Affordable housing is a key component of reducing homelessness. Across Kansas, there is a shortage of affordable rental units available to extremely low-income households (ELI), whose incomes are at or below the poverty guideline or 30% of their area media income1. There are just 41 homes per 100 ELI renter households and, of these, 70% are severely cost burdened (spend more than half of their income on housing)4. This leaves too many being forced to decide between necessities such as food, childcare, and transportation or paying rent.
Action Steps: Support HumanKind’s affordable housing units with a gift today at www.humankindwichita.org. You can also contact your local representative to see what they are going to do about Kansas’s affordable housing crisis.
Did you know the federal minimum wage of $7.25 has not been raised since 2009? Kansas adheres to this minimum wage, despite research showing it takes more than $15/hour to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in Wichita. Many of our homeless clients are employed—some of them full-time—but they don’t make enough to make ends meet. It is time Kansas, like Missouri and other bordering states, raise our minimum wage so that working individuals and families can make ends meet and avoid ending up on the streets. There is currently a bill in the KS House of Representatives proposing a raised minimum wage of $11.00 in 2020 and $15 in 2021, but it has been stalled in the Committee on Commerce, Labor & Economic Development since January 2019.
Action Steps: Contact your state representative and encourage them to support the bill to raise minimum wage. You can also contact the Chair of the Committee holding up the bill, Sean Tarwater, at 785-296-7685.
Addiction is a common stereotype of homeless individuals, but the reality is those suffering from this illness are grossly underserved. There is a major shortage of substance abuse services in Sedgwick County, where the wait for entry into programs is 6-12 weeks. Nearly 40% of individuals facing homelessness in Wichita last year had a substance abuse disorder3. While substance abuse may be a cause of homelessness, it is often an effect of losing one’s home. Treating and breaking addictions is not an easy (or cheap) task, and homeless individuals face many barriers to substance abuse treatment—lack of health care, extensive waiting lists, and a lack of support system. Without access to affordable treatment, the cyclical pattern of addiction and homelessness continues.
Action Steps: Contact your local and state representatives and ask what they are going to do to meet this gap in services.
Access to Healthcare
People experiencing homelessness have higher rates of illness and die, on average, 12 years sooner than the general U.S. population.5 Ill health is part of a dangerous cycle in America—it can lead to job loss, which leads to financial instability, often resulting in homelessness which creates new health problems and exacerbates existing ones because both insurance and healthcare are difficult to access. Even without a job loss, unexpected medical bills can force people out of their homes. Wichita has healthcare clinics and programs that address some of the health needs of our clients, but they can only do so much, and even with income-based pricing, they are not always accessible. One way to expand coverage to HumanKind’s homeless and low-income clients is through Medicaid (KanCare) expansion, which would expand coverage to approximately 165,000 hardworking Kansans who currently fall into the health coverage gap (cannot afford coverage yet have an income too high to qualify for KanCare)6.
Action steps: contact your state representatives to encourage them to take up and pass Medicaid/KanCare expansion.
1. Mental Health Care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HSPAs), Timeframe: as of September 30, 2019. Accessed online at: https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/mental-health-care-health-professional-shortage-areas-hpsas/ | 2. Mental Health Task Force Report to the Kansas Legislature: January 14, 2019. Accessed online at https://www.kdads.ks.gov/docs/default-source/csp/bhs-documents/final-mental-health-task-force-report—january-2019.pdf | 3. 2019 Point in Time Homeless Count, accessed online at: http://www.unitedwayplains.org/doc_download/1434-2019-wichita-sedgwick-county-point-in-time-homeless-count-summary | 4. National Low Income Housing Coalition Report: Housing Needs by State/Kansas. Accessed online at https://nlihc.org/housing-needs-by-state/kansas | 5. National Health Care for the Homeless Council, 2019 | 6. Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, accessed online at https://www.expandkancare.com/why-expansion-matters/ |