Wichita crowd gathers at Fair Chance forum

Wichita, KS – Rallying for what they call an economic fighting chance, a group of concerned citizens hoping to improve living conditions in Wichita’s inner city gathered to address several issues they face and invited local lawmakers to weigh in.

About 50 people, including those who live and work in the inner city and leaders like Sedgwick  County Manager William Buchanan and others are hearing first hand how some Wichitans are struggling to survive in one of the state’s most economically depressed areas. 

“If we continue to disenfranchise this community we are going to see desolation here, we already see vacant homes. It’s frustrating to walk down the block and see every other home, no one is in it,” said Durell Gilmore of  Sunflower Community Action.

The area they are focusing on is the zip code 67214 which covers a large portion of Wichita’s inner city.

One problem, according to Sunflower Community Action, is the difficulty for people who have ever been convicted of a crime to find work. An issue Tamara Winfrey, who has a misdemeanor on her record, knows too well.

“I’ve tried several things such as fast food to customer service at a local store, even a call center. I don’t even get a call back it’s just a no,” Winfrey said.

A proposal to help people like Winfrey is called Ban the Box. It requires some employers to take off a question on job applications about felony convictions. This is an idea that is being adopted on the county level starting in September for some county jobs and is being considered by Wichita leaders. 

City Councilperson Lavonta Williams stated the Ban the Box innitiative would continue to be brought up and she has no problem with it coming to fruition.

And while Ban the Box won’t guarantee jobs for those like Winfrey, who are trying to put their mistakes behind them, forums like this are a good start.

The group says it would also like to hold corporations that receive tax breaks for job creation accountable and provide incentives to bring livable wage paying jobs to the inner city.

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