TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are offering an unconventional housing program to mentally ill homeless people that they hope will ease overcrowding at state hospitals.
The state Department for Aging and Disability Services is considering offering the Housing First program beyond Wichita, Shawnee County and Wyandotte County. The program deviates from traditional housing assistance programs because it has no curfew and sobriety requirements.
“What this lets us do is get these folks who need help out of this cycle where they’re in the state hospital, they get discharged, and then pretty soon they end up back on the street,” said agency spokeswoman Angela de Rocha. “This intervenes in that cycle and stops it.”
The department secured legislative support last year to maintain the three existing programs. It’s seeking an additional $250,000 to help homeless communities in other parts of the state.
More than 320 residents have entered the program and more than 240 have found a permanent home. There were more than 2,000 homeless people across the state last year, according to state data.
Melissa Bogart, who works in housing employment and benefits for the department, said it’s been effective in Wichita, which has the state’s largest homeless population.
“What we’ve seen is persons being housed at a much quicker rate — people with a roof over the head, people being safe, people being up off the street,” Bogart said.