Wichita mission evaluating new ‘tough compassion’

Homeless shelter beds, Photo Credit: Marc Manera

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Union Rescue Mission’s effort to move away from a decades-long policy of providing services to the homeless with no strings attached is still evolving, but some progress has been made, according to officials with the Wichita charity.

The mission decided eight months ago to begin phasing out the policy it had used for 65 years because some men were staying at the mission every night for years, said Denny Bender, director of the Union Rescue Mission of Wichita.

Bender cited one man who had stayed every night at the mission for more than 30 years. The man initially complained about the change, but he later agreed to help the mission obtain his birth certificate, Social Security card and the Social Security payments he was entitled to.

“(He) was the classic case, staying here for 25 to 30 years and on a pace to keep doing that,” Bender said. “Now he is more willing to work with us.”

Bender said the mission and its board discussed changing the policy for months because they were concerned the no-questions-asked policy was doing more harm than good. The problem is difficult because many of the men have serious medical and behavioral problems.

“And some of these men are not even sure how to ride the bus or how to get from here to there,” Bender said.

Currently, 21 men are in various stages of obtaining housing, The Wichita Eagle reported ((http://bit.ly/1sc5xze ).

“We haven’t seen as much progress as we’d like to see,” Bender said.

He noted that the changes have allowed the mission to allocate 10 beds a night for a new program that provides a place to stay for men who are working but aren’t able to afford a home. For $5, the men get a bunk and food, and their need is re-evaluated after 30 days.

The men are required to save about 40 percent of their income by making out money orders payable to themselves that the mission holds for them.

Bender said the changes haven’t yet reduced the mission’s population of about 120 men a night but that was never the intent of the effort.



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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