Cowley County’s first temporary homeless shelter welcomed its first guest last week

by: Zena TaherCarina Branson

COWLEY COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – An emergency shelter is now open in Cowley County, and it has already housed its first temporary residents. The shelter has been in the works for years but now has the opportunity to change lives.

In Cowley County, resources for housing are slim. The Cowley House of Hope shelter is meant to fill those gaps. The shelter’s been in the works since 2017 when thousands of dollars had to be raised to make it a reality.

The shelter is built similarly to a duplex. It sleeps five people and has two rooms with several beds in each. Each room also has a small kitchen and bathroom.

Winfield, the seat of Cowley County, doesn’t have enough resources to put into homeless infrastructure. So, the city and county turned to nonprofits to fill in the gaps.

“A lot of shelters have staff, or they have more steady resources than what we do. We’re dependent mainly and mostly, entirely on donations, private donations,” said Bradley Gamber, the director of the Cowley House of Hope.

Due to the lack of funding, the shelter is still small, but officials with Winfield said that at any given point in Cowley County, there are between 14 and 30 people struggling with housing.

“There’s a lot of different reasons that people can enter homelessness, and Cowley House of Hope is there to help them at least in the short term meet that need,” said Winfield City Manager Taggart Wall.

Wall said that’s especially important because solutions are hard to find with a lack of resources.

“Cowley County does not have that infrastructure in place for long-term homelessness. It’s a phenomenon that’s unfortunately rapidly moving across the country,” said Wall.

Gamber said homelessness is becoming a larger issue for the community, and it looks different in a place like Cowley County as compared to larger cities.

“There’s one or two individuals that you’ll see in our community that are homeless, but a lot of the homelessness in rural areas is not quite so visible,” he said.

The Cowley House of Hope is open to people in a lot of situations faced with spending a night without shelter.

For Hannah Knight, it was a plumbing issue that made her home unsafe to sleep in last week that made her seek shelter.

“The issue we had already had at that point cost us about $400, and so financially, going to a hotel room wasn’t really in my budget,” said Knight.

The shelter isn’t just meant for people like Knight. It’s also built for those who fall into homelessness suddenly because of things like evictions.

Cowley House of Hope is helping fill the gap in need.

“If they wouldn’t have been there, then I don’t know where I would’ve stayed, honestly,” said Knight.

People can only stay at Cowley House of Hope for two nights the group hopes to build another shelter in Arkansas City. Down the line, they hope to have a facility with 90-day beds for those who need more intense support to address the root causes of homelessness.

This article was republished here with the permission of: KSNW-TV