Topeka City Council approves ordinance restricting camping

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topeka will soon have new restrictions on camping.

(WIBW/Marleah Campbell)

Council members unanimously approved the measure Tuesday night, 9-0.

The compromise measure was the result of more than a year and a half of work by council members and the city's Homeless Task Force. Leaders worked to balance the needs of those less fortunate with other interests of the city.

Under the ordinance, people who are homeless will no longer be able to camp under public infrastructure such as bridges, bus shelters, and doorways due to safety reasons.

The language in the ordinance also states camping in areas that include retail businesses, restaurants, hotels, and event centers impedes economic development, and so shall not be allowed.

A proposed amendment to add trails to the restricted areas failed on a 4-5 vote.

City leaders want to help prevent incidents like the December 2018 fire at a homeless camp under the Kansas Avenue bridge that resulted in major structural damage.

When the new language was announced last month, Topeka Rescue Mission executive director Barry Feaker said he believed it achieved the best of both worlds.