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Advocates seek new policies after Topeka homeless camp razed


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The recent bulldozing of a camp for homeless people has advocates arguing that Topeka should adopt more liberal policies modeled after ones in Kansas City, Missouri.

Social worker Russell Burton and other advocates hope to raise the issue at the Topeka City Council's meeting June 7, The Kansas City Star reports.

Burton wants the city to require outreach workers to visit before a camp is bulldozed and to remain until city workers leave, something Kansas City mandates under a policy adopted in mid-April. He also wants to require the city to store people's personal items for 60 days, as Kansas City does, twice the time set by Topeka's policies.

Topeka on May 10 razed an encampment just north of the Kansas River where more than a dozen people were living.

Ken Saffer, a 57-year-old resident of the encampment on and off since 2017, said his belongings were confiscated, including clothing, tools and a generator. Others scrambled to collect medication and important documents.

Spokesperson Gretchen Spiker said the city provided more than the required 72 hours notice before clearing the camp and followed its policies regarding belongings. She said the city “went above and beyond” to protect individuals' constitutional rights.