Wichita groups turn church into ‘hub’ for homeless

Wichita (ap) — A former church in downtown Wichita is being repurposed as a “hub” to treat homeless patients.

Robert Mitelhaus, owner of the former Central Christian Church building, signed leases for multiple organizations to use the space after realizing the church might be best utilized by certain groups and outreach ministries, The Wichita Eagle reported.

The groups include JayDoc Community Clinic, Church on the Street, The Source Wichita, and Jason Febres’ Rent the Chef business.

JayDoc is a University of Kansas-sponsored collaboration with the Guadalupe Clinic that treats patients at the church on Thursday nights. It serves as an outreach effort by the Catholic Diocese of Wichita that provides health care to the uninsured and to those who can’t otherwise afford it.

Ken Schmanke, executive director on JayDoc’s board, said volunteering at the clinic allows him to evolve as a physician.

“You really do get diversity of patient population in here — I work with people every day that I normally probably would never interact with,” Schmanke said. “There’s unique challenges to that.”

The building was dedicated as the home of Central Christian Church in 1948. At the time, Central Christian was one of the largest churches in town.

Mitelhaus, who bought the building in 2016, refuses to sell the property to ambitious developers. “My heart is for those who have nothing and who are desperate, not for those who have everything they could ever want and then some,” he said. “I just want to keep it as a place of ministry, where the gospel will be preached and continue reaching out to the homeless.”

Jason Villanueva, leader of The Source Wichita, said his church rents out the chapel space, while Church on the Street — a homeless outreach ministry — rents kitchen and basement space.

Shawn Gordon, project manager for Church on the Street, said everyone in the church building is collaborating to connect the homeless to Wichita’s existing network of resources, “so we don’t have to keep recreating this wheel.”

“There’s a synergy here that you can just tap into,” Gordon said. “We’re all here on common ground, and that’s work, help and assist this community.”


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