TOPEKA (KSNT) – Topeka’s homeless concerns are growing, but one city leader ensures city staff are actively working to come up with a solution for cleaning up homeless camps on city property.
Tuesday night, Topeka fire responded to a small fire at a homeless camp just north of the Kansas River. No injuries were reported, and by the time firefighters arrived, everyone had left. Though the fire was small, it is sparking further questions about the city’s camping concerns.
Topeka city councilwoman Karen Hiller told 27 News the city’s revised camping ordinance, which will go into effect on Nov. 17, is expected to address some of those concerns.
“It made the territory where camping is not allowed greater,” Hiller said. “Great enough that it pushes the issue really to whether the city has anything appropriate. That’s why people are scrambling. They’re trying to figure out if there’s anything we have and if we don’t, what could be? What could work?”
On Sep. 17, the city gave homeless individuals a 60-day notice to make alternate living arrangements. Hiller said that 60 day span also provides a deadline for the city to reach a solution.
Though she said there still isn’t a clear-cut answer at this time, the goal of the revised ordinance is to distance people from the trail systems and the river. Hiller said addressing such a large volume of people is part of the challenge.
Hiller said it’s not only about addressing where homeless individuals can or cannot go, but also if they will have access to support services as well. The other thing to keep an eye on, she said, is whether those people are following the city’s ordinances.
“So making sure that they are kept up, that there’s not litter, unhealthy substances let’s say, people have permits, their dogs aren’t running loose,” Hiller said. “All those things that all of us live by as citizens of Topeka, as they are as well.”
Hiller encourages community members to come forward with their ideas on how to address homelessness, as she described this as an ‘all hands on deck’ scenario.
If you have any ideas, questions or concerns, those can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.