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The homeless veteran population is an obvious concern as volunteers complete the annual tally

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – Volunteers spread throughout Sedgwick County Thursday to determine how many homeless people live in the Wichita area. From that total count, one sect of the homeless population of concern are veterans.

Steps, a military veterans support organization that provides shelter and services to homeless veterans, works to address a nationwide problem locally. When Passageways co-founder Susan Moellnger and her daughter started the organization in 2014, they weren’t aware of just how glaring homelessness was.

In nearly a decade, they say, the population of needy local veterans hasn’t improved. It is a population that continues to increase, in contrast to the national trend, despite programs such as Passageways.

At Passageways, Moellinger described how the organization can help veterans transition from life on the streets to permanent housing.

“They have steps to take to graduate. There is constant work going on,” she said. “We help them get jobs, benefits through the VA, whatever we can do to get them to the next level.”

Since Passageways began in 2014, Moellinger said 112 veterans have transitioned from the organization to a fresh start. Organizers are trying to determine why homelessness has worsened in Sedgwick County.

“Three years ago, it was 57 to 58[veteran homeless]which is alarming because change isn’t happening,” Moeller said. “Last year it went up to 66. This is the point count, which is a day’s count of all the homeless in Sedgwick County. It’s a goal. It’s one way to measure, but it’s not completely accurate.

While Wichita has resources to help homeless veterans, Moeller believes addressing the root cause of homelessness would bring about real change.

“We believe we have to address the problems first,” he said. “First let’s address what has caused homelessness. When they’re alone, they have that toolbox to draw from, to help them stay indoors and not become homeless again.”

Thursday’s point count numbers of Sedgwick County’s homeless population won’t be confirmed until spring.

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