WICHITA, Kansas– It’s not in his job description, but Wichita Police Officer, Nate Schwiethale, is doing a lot of heavy lifting lately.
“One of the ideas is that if we truly want to help these guys get off the streets and be successful, we need to be a part of the entire process, and that includes moving,” said Schwiethale with a smile.
On this day, he’s headed to the new home of Myron Menard.
For the first time in seven years, the 52-year-old man has his own television, a dresser for his clothes, and a bed to sleep in at night. But most importantly, “the privacy and security, really,” said Menard.
He’s just one of the latest success stories, since the Wichita Police Department started its Homeless Outreach Team in January. They’ve gotten almost 80 people off the streets and into apartments.
“Y’know a lot of these guys I’ve worked with the past ten years, I’ve cited them with tickets and arrested them so now to see us try to do something a little different,” said Schwiethale.
Like finding them help for the problems that made them homeless in the first place– mental illness and substance abuse, the most common.
“I’ve been trying to get off the streets for 15 years,” said Bill Price, who spends most days in public parks.
He has a hard time trusting police, but says he’s been hearing good things about HOT.
“I would never have thought a cop would have helped me get into an apartment,” said Leonard Eatherly. “I swallowed my pride one day and went and talked to him.”
Officer Schwiethale helped Eatherly move into a new apartment a few weeks ago.
“I love it. It’s peaceful. It’s quiet,” said Eatherly.
He’s started working again and hopes one day, to pay his own rent.
Right now, a city and county program called “Housing First” covers the costs, and the charity group, “His Helping Hands,” provides donated furniture.
Getting the homeless off the streets, police say, not only keeps them safer, but prevents crime and reduces jail overcrowding.
It convinced Price to put his name on a waiting list for an apartment, taking a chance at the new life he’s always wanted.
“Knowing that I have a place to go home to at night where I could lay my head, and it’s warm, safe and dry and I don’t have to worry about someone trying to rob you.”