Topeka programs team up to support those in need with Community Outreach Vehicle


TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – No one looks forward to getting into an ambulance,  but that may change after a new program gets rolling.

The Community Outreach Vehicle is a collaborative effort of several departments and organizations around town that started as an idea in the Topeka Police Department garage.

The blue and yellow ambulance is one of Chief Cochran’s initiatives; an idea brought to life through teamwork with two main jobs.

“The first one is called community health,” Topeka Police Sgt. Josh Klamm said. “Oftentimes those calls aren’t actually emergencies, the downside is that they’re using a lot of resources: police department, Stormont Vail, fire department. We meet them where they’re at, whether it’s a tent underneath a bridge or their house and see what’s going on and how we can serve them.”

It’s already been out on the streets for a few months doing just that, but this week, Fox 43’s Molly Patt got to ride along for the very first time this truck paid a visit to a homeless camp, its second job.

The community outreach vehicle is turning an old ambulance into a place of comfort, making sure people have what they need, and showing them what life has to offer outside of these camps.

“We are just focusing on the whole aspect, not just the symptom but the actual patient or the person themselves and we focus on everything physical health, mental health and make sure they have insurance,” Sgt. Klamm said.

“Oftentimes it takes up to 70 visits to one person who is unsheltered camps to build that trust to get them to come in for a meal and so we do everything we can to build a relationship with them,” Mark DeGroff, with the Topeka Rescue Mission Street Reach said.

The goal is to have the truck out at least once a week, split up by both missions.

The truck would not be possible without the help of community partnerships.

“It’s fun to see the reaction, it gets a lot of attention and brings a lot of people out, its great to partner with Sgt. Klamm and Valeo and the other community partners,” DeGroff said.

“Lower the number of 911 calls for service, the number of mental health individuals that go to jail, lower the number who go to the er, the more we work together the better off society is going to be, not just from taxpayer standpoint but from a community service standpoint,” Sgt. Klamm said.

In order to keep the Outreach Vehicle stocked and ready, police said they are currently in need of several new and unused items: blankets, tarps, tents, sleeping bags, hand/feet warmers, gloves, scarves, stocking caps, coats, pants, toiletry items, and dog/cat food.

 You can donate to help by either bringing items to the Topeka Rescue Mission or the police department.

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