Wichita commits to municipal IDs in 2025, confirms homeless resource center will move forward

City officials, including Mayor Lily Wu and City Manager Robert Layton, announced new steps for homelessness policy at the Justice Together Nehemiah Assembly.

by Stefania Lugli

Wichita city officials announced their commitment to implementing a county-wide, low-barrier municipal ID program in 2025 as well as an annual $600,000 operating budget for a one-stop-shop homeless resource center to roaring applause at the inaugural Nehemiah Assembly Thursday evening.

The Assembly, hosted by Justice Together, a grassroots coalition of interfaith communities in Sedgwick County, was held to announce the organization’s intent on directly addressing policy issues in mental health and homelessness.

They asked representatives of Wichita and the county to commit to a fully-funded photo ID program in 2025 and to agree to meeting with them and other services providers within the next 30 days to work on a sustainable budget plan for the city’s multi-agency campus center (MAC).

Present officials including Mayor Lily Wu, City Manager Robert Layton, Sedgwick County Commissioner Ryan Baty and Secretary Andrew Brown of the Kansas Department of Aging & Disability Services gave a resounding “yes” to each goal.

“Thank you very much for the opportunity to make a commitment regarding this ID card,” Wu said. “Immediately after having that question, I reached out to my partners and friends in Kansas City regarding their fountain cards, which they just launched in 2024 through their health department. So yes, we are emphatically yes.”

The Fountain Card referenced by Mayor Wu is a photo ID available to Kansas City, Missouri residents. The ID grants a valid form of identification within the city, giving them access to city services.

The lack of ID can be a major obstacle for homeless people, who commonly lack proper paperwork or identification. This barrier prevents someone experiencing homelessness from getting into housing or the workforce.

Wichita’s future municipal ID would be called the “Air Capital Card,” according to Layton.

No mention was made of how the city’s Air Capital Cards will interact with Kansas statute banning municipal IDs as valid forms of state proof of identity.

Aside from IDs, Justice Together also pushed city and county officials to commit to a meeting in the next 30 days on determining the necessary funds, “using a braided funding approach,” to fully fund operations and supportive services for the MAC.

Officials once again said “yes” to the meeting request, which would include service providers and representatives from Justice Together.

Organizers and officials confirmed that Wichita currently has $20 million set aside for the campus project, has applied for additional funding and has committed $600,000 annually towards its operations.

Justice Together organizers also asked state and county officials to fully staff mobile mental health crisis units out of COMCARE by October. Both officials said that they are committed to working toward this but are facing workforce shortages.

“This is a model we believe in strongly, and we’re trying to bring to communities all across the state,” said Andrew Brown, deputy secretary of the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services. 

“Our biggest challenge right now is finding workforce to staff those teams. But we will work with Joan (Tammany, director of COMCARE) to make sure we’re doing everything in our power to support her in making those hires.”

Brown also committed to adding $200,000 dollars to a program run by the Substance Abuse Center for Kansas that provides free bus passes to people recovering from addiction.

Stefania Lugli is a reporter for The Journal, published by the Kansas Leadership Center. She focuses on covering issues related to homelessness in Wichita and across Kansas. Her stories are shared widely through the Wichita Journalism Collaborative. She can be reached via email slugli@kansasleadershipcenter.org

This article was produced as part of the Wichita Journalism Collaborative (WJC). The WJC is a partnership of 11 media and community partners, including The Journal. The WJC is embarking on 18 months of dedicated coverage to shed light on the pressing issue of affordable housing in Wichita.

This article was republished here with the permission of: KLC Journal