TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topeka's homeless problem shows no sign of letting up, according to Rescue Mission Executive Director Barry Feaker.
The most immediate concern for him is space. The mission needs more, he says, because they're simply running out.
The former Schmidt Builder's Supply warehouse at 206 Northwest Norris could provide that space. Feaker foresees renovating it into barraks-type rooms, housing up to 200 additional beds.
City variances run out this summer that currently allow the mission to operate over-capacity. Feaker says they're seeing 100 more people a night than they were a year ago and the number of children has doubled.
Transforming the warehouse into shelter is just part of a six-pronged plan called Operation NET-reach. NET stands for Neighborhood Empowerment Teams. Feaker and has team are developing the plan to tackle causes of and solutions to the community's homelessness crisis.
After identifying homeless people and getting them a safe shelter, step 3 makes the current shelter more program based. Feaker says that would provide a lot more educational opportunities and more space to learn.
The fourth component brings volunteers into the shelter to mentor guests, while the fifth works with the Topeka Housing Authority to establish safe, supportive neighborhoods for people moving out of the mission. Feaker says people often do well when they are at the mission, but then lose their support systems when they move out. The goal of the plan is to strengthen the community part of programs so when guests do leave the mission, they are strong.
With those goals achieved, the final component is replicating success to truly transform people's lives. In that way, the community can bring down the number of people who are homeless.
Feaker hopes to have a design plan for the warehouse renovations in the next couple of months. He'd then need city approval to proceed. He says he anticipates needing $750,000 to $1 million to complete renovations.