Homeless build camp inside White Lakes Mall

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- The abandoned White Lakes Mall has new residents and the people in charge of selling the building are concerned squatters on the property may get hurt.

United Country Real Estate has been given the task of selling the White Lakes mall property, but they recently learned a number of homeless people have built a camp inside.

The Topeka Rescue Mission is aware of the West Lake squatters, but tell 13 NEWS there isn’t much they can do to help.

“If someone doesn’t want help, they’re not getting help,” said Topeka Rescue Mission’s executive director Barry Feaker.

They have tried to reach out to the nearly 15 people who have made the old White Lakes Mall their home.

“We’ve been here multiple times in the past couple of weeks, trying to help them. Some people just aren’t willing to accept help. And just don’t want to move forward,” said Mark Degroff, who runs the Street Reach program for the Mission.

His team cannot go inside of the mall and find the homeless and police can’t either. That’s because the building is condemned, and not safe for anyone to go inside.

“There’s electricity. There’s gas. There’s potentially water and water pressure and things like that coming into a building like this and it’s not safe,” said Degroff.

But not only is it unsafe, Feaker worries there could be more at play.

“The drug issues. Possibly human trafficking. What kind of other issues are at play here? Or possibly being in a situation where they could ignite a building, and that has happened before,” Feaker explained.

Feaker’s team has been waiting for those inside to come out so they can talk. But until they want help, there isn’t much more that can be done.

“If we are not able to help with a small percentage of the people that are presenting the issues that they’re presenting, how can we think outside the box to be able to reach them, if at all possible? Sometimes you can’t. But have we thought of everything? The answer is no. Can we think of more? Yes, if we work together,” Feaker said.

Topeka Police say they will only respond to calls inside the mall when someone’s life is in danger. They say they are not equipped to be able to handle the dangerous conditions.