TOPEKA (KSNT) – With a large homeless population in NOTO primarily running through the district’s river walk, it has become a concern for Studio 62 Art Bar owner Cies Smith.
Smith told 27 News when she talks about her business with others, sometimes they won’t even consider going because of the location.
“I’ll tell people about it and they’ll be like, ‘oh I really don’t like going over to North Topeka,'” Smith said. “It’s just kind of scary for me. Some people just aren’t comfortable bringing their families down. They’re worried about their cars getting broken into.”
Usually during normal business hours for any store, you can walk in as you please. That’s not the case for Studio 62 Art Bar because the homeless population has forced the business to keep its doors locked at all times, and entry requires ringing a doorbell.
“That was necessary because it was getting kind of really bad,” Smith said. “People were wanting to sleep on the couches and ask ‘can I stay the night here? I know you have a place upstairs. Can I sleep there?’ Sometimes I’m here by myself and I’m not feeling the safest.”
But it’s not the homeless population as a whole that the NOTO Arts Entertainment District Director Thomas Underwood has an issue with. It’s the ones who don’t use the services of the Topeka Rescue Mission.
“People want to come to a place that is clean and orderly and well kept,” Underwood said. “Looking down and seeing trash thrown all over the place, you know, encampments that are not orderly, or cleaned up, or those kinds of things. It’s quite a distraction, actually, for people wanting to visit NOTO.”
To help combat the issue, La Manda Broyles and the Topeka Rescue Mission have an outreach team called “Street Reach Team”. It’s a team that gets to know the homeless population and helps get them clean in order to be eligible to use the mission’s services.
“A lot of times what community members see are trash, or tents,” Broyles said. “But we really look at who’s that person and getting to know their story, what challenges they’re facing. Seeing what kind of resources they need so that we can get them out of that tent and into shelter.”
The Topeka Rescue Mission provides shelter and food to more than 175 individuals a day. Broyles said if anyone has concerns or issues regarding the homeless, the shelter wants to hear about it so it can address the problem.