Dornwood Park used as homeless camp
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Once again the virtua signalers blame the wrong people.

Tim Hrenchir

Topeka Capital-Journal

This makeshift road running north from near S.E. 23rd and Bellview Avenue in Topeka leads to a camp where people who are unsheltered live, Shawnee County commissioners were told Thursday.

Feces and dirty diapers can be seen in an area where unsheltered people set up camp and and created a road of sorts in the Shawnee County-owned Dornwood Park in southeast Topeka, the county commission was told Thursday.

https://www.cjonline.com/story/news/local/2023/02/03/possible-homeless-camp-in-topekas-dornwood-park-to-be-investigated/69866231007/?utm_source=cjonline-NewsAlert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news_alerts&utm_term=news_alert&utm_content=NTCJ-KANSAS-TOPEKA-NLETTER01

Without taking a vote, Commissioners Kevin Cook, Aaron Mays and Bill Riphahn asked county counselor Jim Crowl to look into the situation with help from the county’s sheriff’s office and parks and recreation department.

‘A terrible eyesore’

People are entering the area involved by passing through private property owned by the Gil Carter Initiative at 2600 S.E. 23rd, commissioners were told Thursday by Erma Forbes, chair of the board of directors for that initiative.

The campers have created a makeshift road, which runs north from near S.E. 23rd and Bellview Avenue, Forbes said.

S.E. Bellview runs north and south, and is about six blocks east of S.E. California Avenue.

Forbes said she isn’t unsympathetic to people who are unhoused, and has brought the unsheltered residents food and clothing.

Still, she said the campsite’s condition is “deplorable,” and asked commissioners to help her resolve the issues the presence creates.

“It’s become a terrible eyesore,” Forbes said. “It’s unsafe.”

Forbes hasn’t seen any children at the homeless camp, where the youngest person present has been about 25 years old, she told commissioners.

Signage on the Gil Carter Initiative property makes it clear that no trespassing is allowed there, Forbes said.

She said one resident told her the campers aren’t on Gil Carter Initiative property but instead on the property of Dornwood Park and on land owned by Topeka-based Community Action, Inc.

More:Topeka leaders say the local homeless situation is spiraling. Here’s how $76K may help.

‘Drop some boulders’

The presence of the public in Dornwood Park outside its operating hours would be trespassing, Crowl told commissioners.

The public is only allowed to be in that park between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., seven days a week, the county parks and recreation website says.

Mays said the presence of the unauthorized road was “particularly concerning” to him.

He suggested the county’s parks and recreation department could at least “drop some boulders” to shut it down for now.

“They definitely should not be driving back there,” Mays said.

Homeless count tallied 365 unsheltered people here last year

Homelessness is a nationwide concern, Crowl told commissioners.

He noted that Topeka’s mayor and city council plan Tuesday to consider city manager Stephen Wade’s request that they enter into a contract through which the city would pay $76,080 to Evanston, Ill.-based Sylver Consulting LLC to help the Topeka community aid the homeless in a manner that’s more effective, proactive and humane.

Volunteers counted 365 unsheltered people last year in Topeka during the annual Point in Time Homeless Count.

Figures are not yet available from this year’s count, which took place last month.

Contact Tim Hrenchir at threnchir@gannett.com or 785-213-5934.

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