WICHITA, Kan. -- On the afternoon of Jan. 17, when the temperature dipped below freezing, a family from Kingman, Kan., drove to Wichita, dumped a 78-year-old relative at the Inter-Faith Inn homeless shelter and quickly drove away.
They left her on the sidewalk with her wheelchair and a few suitcases.
"She wasn't crying," case manager Amanda Merritt recalled. "But she was upset about the situation. She said they were kicking her out."
They left so quickly that no one from the shelter was able to talk to them, Merritt said. They didn't even knock on the shelter door to make sure there was room at the inn.
"That's unbelievable that someone would do that," said Janis Cox, co-chairwoman of Advocates to End Chronic Homelessness, an area faith-based volunteer group.
Shelter staff took the woman, who was in poor health, inside.
To accommodate her frailties, the staff hustled to set her up with a room on the ground floor.
She stayed at the shelter more than two weeks until she found an out-of-state friend who agreed to take her in. She left Wichita two weeks ago.
The woman's story may seem unbelievable, but it's not that rare, said Sandy Swank, director of housing and homeless services for Inter-Faith Ministries.
A 2010 study by the Homeless Research Institute, an arm of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, projected that the number of elderly people who are homeless would increase by 33 percent, from 44,172 in 2010 to 58,772 by 2020, and would double to 95,000 by 2050.