Advocates call for change after homeless camp bulldozings

13 News at Six
Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 7:23 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topeka resident Ken Saffer says he didn’t have time to move his belongings from the homeless camp where he lived before the city moved in with bulldozers on May 10th.

Saffer says he lost many important items.

“I lost an oxygen settling tank, two tailgater generators, a Honda tiller and some hand tools, and personal property, paperwork, clothing,” he said.

Saffer says the city came in a day earlier than expected.

Social worker and homeless advocate Dr. Russel Burton also says the city did not meet its requirements in assisting the homeless.

“The city is obligated by court decision to sort out property,” he said. “They can’t just come and bulldoze without sorting out bikes, tools and generators and clothing and other sorts of property that they’re obligated to sort out. They didn’t. They’re obligated to sort that property out, take it to the city, provide a method by which the folks can get it back, which they did provide a method by which the folks could get it back and they did notify them, but they didn’t take any property. They didn’t take a single piece of property. You can ask anybody out here. If they didn’t put it on the levy it was bulldozed.”

Even if they had, Burton says the city only must store the items for 30 days.

He wants to see the time extended to 60 days for people to claim their items, and require outreach workers to visit before a camp is bulldozed and remain until city workers leave.

City officials declined an interview on-camera, but in an email, they say they could consider additional storage time for personal items, but it is paid with taxpayer dollars.

The city also says they gave individuals ample opportunity to remove items of personal value, and ensured there was nothing remaining that would require storage, before beginning the clean-up.

Dr. Burton says he plans to take his views to the city council.

“If the city is interested in public health let’s talk about dumpsters down here, let’s talk about trash bags down here, let’s talk about trash bags down here, let’s talk about porta potties down here, let’s talk about some potable water down here. If the city is really concerned about public health I’m concerned about public health too. Let’s address it,” he said.

The Topeka City Council meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 7.

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