Housing issues in Pratt reflect housing issues statewide, but Monday, more than 45 people gathered at the United Methodist Church to address the rights and wrongs of the situation as part of a Big View meeting, set up by Circles of Hope in Pratt.
"We spent a lot of time discussing landlord and tenant disagreements," said Circles advocate Jeanette Siemens. "But I think the most pressing issue for most there was affordable housing."
Average rent numbers batted around at the meeting centered on $600 per month, which for many is simply too much to afford when other living expenses are added in and contrasted with minimum-wage or otherwise average earning figures in the area.
"The whole purpose of this meeting was to hear various viewpoints on these issues," Siemens said. "In that respect it was a very successful meeting because we heard all sides in conversation. The problem is that we need to find a way to provide affordable housing. We all need to be treated like human beings and this is a good place to start."
Siemens led the meeting which featured a talk-panel of Mike Cummings, Circles Coach; Pat Gordon, Pratt landlord; Pamela Ford, Director of the Hope Center; Jeff Thomson and Diana Crabtree of Interfaith Housing in Hutchinson, and Holly Rooks,  Executive Director of the South Central Community Foundation. All presented their viewpoints on the topic of housing from their perspectives.  Cumming shared concerns from the income-challenged renters experience.  Gordon addressed why and how landlords require certain things and issues that arise.  Ford talked about past experiences as well as some of the things that people need help for in housing through the Hope Center.  Thompson and Crabtree talked about Interfaith Housing and some of the services it offers in Hutchinson.  
"As in many cases, sometimes knowing where another entity is coming from and issues they face helps broaden our understanding of why things happen," Siemens said. "People have rental property as a business, and these businesses are designed to make a profit.  People struggling with the cost of living, of which housing is a large expense, may not be exposed to the underlying issues of running that rental business and have so much to do making the money to pay that rent so they aren't aware of those issues."  
Home ownership concerns were addressed by Interfaith Housing. This organization, based in Reno County, does a lot of work with fixing up homes to make them liveable, as well as new construction with Habitat Homes.   Interfaith also has programs in which people can participate such as the IDAs, Individual Development Accounts.  People can begin saving up to $3,000 that can be used for purchase or rehab of a house, saving for schooling, or purchasing a business, and Interfaith will match that 2 to 1.  In other words, $3,000 turns into $9,000.  
"As with so many things communication is a big part of any issue," Siemens said. "Understanding why someone does things the way they do, the pressures each is under, all helps to resolve problems hopefully through discussions such as this. I think the meeting was a success because we each heard the other side of the housing conversation. I hope we will keep talking and see what we can do to resolve housing issues in Pratt."
Circles periodically hosts such a discussion on issues important to everyone in the community.