CORRECTION: This article originally reported the Topeka Police Department had officers on scene at the homeless clear-out. BNSF Railways’ own police force was on scene.
TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Railroad police and crews closed in Monday morning on the north Topeka homeless tent city, starting to clear out the residents after they received a notice to leave a month earlier.
BNSF Railways moved on scene around 9:30 a.m. to mark the railroad’s property the homeless camp is sitting on top of, according to a BNSF Railways spokesperson. They said the need to move the camp became more urgent due to the coronavirus.
The clear-out effort comes after the City of Topeka also secured a $100,000 grant to move the camp residents to indoor housing March 16. City spokeswoman Molly Hadfield said they gave out 23 grant vouchers to 27 people from the camp March 12, and have filled two households at this point.
The Topeka and Shawnee County Homeless Task Force announced Feb. 13 that the 60 homeless residents in Topeka’s tent city would need to clear out as early as March 2. The tent city sits on BNSF Railways properties, in violation of Kansas statutes for trespassing on railroad property.
BNSF Railways said they will bulldoze and clear out anything the homeless leave in the camp once they leave.