At least 691 Wichitans homeless in 2024, new numbers show

What’s ideal in the planning of a new homeless resource or shelter in a neighborhood: timely, consistent communication from city officials, assurances that no one area will have to carry too much of a burden hosting services and a need for residents to be provided more data about what is and isn’t working when it comes to homelessness.

At least 691 Wichita area residents were experiencing homelessness in January 2024, according to new point-in-time (PIT) data released by United Way of the Plains.

The number of people who are homeless is a 1.5% decrease from 2023 — which counted 702 homeless people in Wichita-Sedgwick County.

Of the 691 this year, 111 individuals were considered chronically homeless, meaning they have been homeless for a year or longer in the past three years.

When it comes to sheltered vs. unsheltered homelessness, 503 were considered sheltered, with 452 of those residing in emergency shelter. One hundred eighty-eight people were unsheltered, meaning they were found living in places not “meant for human habitation,” which includes streets and cars.

PIT data is important for establishing how prevalent homelessness in a community is, but it is a single-night snapshot of an ever-changing crisis.

Continuums of care across the country have to abide by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definitions of homelessness for the count. For example, someone who spent the night of Jan. 25 in a motel room paid by friends or family would not count as a person experiencing homelessness, according to HUD standards.

Conversely, someone counted in January as experiencing homelessness could be in housing today and no longer be homeless.

Housing of Urban Development requires continuums of care to complete a PIT count at least every other year to remain eligible for HUD funds. Wichita conducts its PIT annually and it is coordinated by United Way, the lead agency for the Coalition to End Homelessness in Wichita/Sedgwick County, the continuum of care for that area.

Additional data from United Way and the Coalition shows that the average person experienced 37 days of homelessness, down from 43 days in 2023.

The data showed 1,433 people were housed or kept in housing. About 17% of people housed within the past two years returned to homelessness.

While the literal count is verified by United Way, all demographic data is self-reported by those counted, which includes veteran status, disability, race, gender, age and length of time homeless.

This story is shared from The Journal through the Wichita Journalism Collaborative, a coalition of 11 newsrooms and community groups, including The Wichita Eagle.