TOEPKA (KSNT) – City leaders have decided how to approach to implementing the city-wide camping ordinance.

At Tuesday’s Topeka City Council meeting, the governing body announced it will be using a phased approach to implement the amended camping ordinance that is set to go into effect Nov. 17, 2023. According to a press release from the city, this is because of timing and anticipated winter weather that’s coming, resources and ongoing homeless initiatives that are currently underway. This approach will focus on the restricted areas within city limits for camping as outlined in the ordinance.

“The pros are, there are always unintended consequences of things when you pass them,” District 8 Councilmember Spencer Duncan said. “And now that we’ve had a few months to research those, we’re identifying those and we’re going to fix those, so those are the pros, it gives us time. The cons are, it’s not as fast as we’d like it to be. And we know that homelessness is a crisis, and we’re trying to address it as fast as we can, but we also have a responsibility to do it right.” 

According to a spokeswoman with the city, it will immediately increase enforcement in areas where camping is not permitted. Key areas of enforcement include areas near city infrastructure (bus shelters, bridges, buildings, water towers etc.) and in business areas like downtown Topeka and NOTO.

The city says it will prioritize helping those who are camping with resources who can help with housing assistance and other services. Topeka’s governing body wants to see camps clean and safe. Council members will push back its plan to evaluate the implementation of the entire ordinance until early 2024, according to the press release.

“We make sure that we’ve taken all things into consideration and not move very fast, but we are moving,” Topeka Mayor Michael Padilla said. We’re not ignoring that we have a new ordinance, we’re just taking into consideration how they implement it.”