Shelter in place is a term receiving much attention recently. The current pandemic forces us indoors and we spend many of our hours in our homes. Yet, thousands of our fellow residents currently live in dwellings where living conditions are hazardous to their health and safety.
As a long time, volunteer and Board member of Wichita Habitat for Humanity, I and my fellow volunteers have seen many situations here in Wichita where lives are in danger and dwellings are risky for the inhabitants. We have visited dwellings where the floors swayed as we walked on them. We visited homes where a child slept in a closet because the bedroom ceiling in his parents’ rental house had collapsed. In one home, four young girls waited hours for the bathtub to drain before they could bathe. We regularly hear of parents and children sharing beds because of lack of sleeping space. Overcrowding spreads disease. We have seen asthmatic children hospitalized repeatedly because they are living in a rental house with black mold. Now these children are homeschooled in the same house that is endangering their health. We speak with parents afraid for their children as they hear neighbor’s angry voices through paper thin walls or hear gunshots nightly in their neighborhood.
In one particularly moving situation, a mattress was propped against a dining room wall where a young boy slept under the table during the night and the family ate at the table during the day. Imagine now the young boy is educated at the same table he sleeps under at night.
Throughout the area, there are health care providers, CNAs and LPNs, who finish their shifts at nursing homes or hospitals and come home to their families carrying contaminated clothing where there is no ready access to laundry facilities. Yes, they can use a laundromat or the apartment complex’s facilities, but where do they store their contaminated clothing?
The last month has been a difficult one for us. Priorities and aspirations are changing. As our economy begins to gear up again and we reexamine our lives, I urge each of you to remember the housing needs in Wichita and surrounding areas. Make housing a priority and work to ensure that each person has a safe, healthy, affordable place to live. Working together, we can achieve this goal. Activate your efforts by volunteering, donating and advocating with public officials at all levels of government to make housing a priority. Safe, healthy, and affordable housing is a goal we can achieve!
Ann Patterson, Advocacy Chair for Wichita Habitat for Humanity