2019 Point in Time Homeless Results

The point-in-time count of homeless persons in Topeka took place on January 23rd. This one day event produces a snapshot of the individuals in our community experiencing homelessness as defined by Housing and Urban Development. This data is used to support federal funding for the Continuum of Care Initiative. In 2018 the Topeka Rescue Mission saw 419 people experiencing homelessness. In 2019 that number jumped to 441. 16% of the homeless population in Topeka was under 18, for a total of 69 persons under 18. Overall the numbers of homelessness in Topeka increased from last year.

“The point-in-time count helps us to identify those people in need and to attain the resources that we need to help them,” said Corrie Wright, Division Director of Housing Services for the City of Topeka. “We want to thank all the volunteers who helped us with the count and who are helping to make our community better.”

The information gathered during the point-in-time count helps the City of Topeka understand the face of homelessness in the community so that services are meeting the needs of homeless persons. This count also helps to raise public awareness surrounding issues with homelessness and measures the community progress towards preventing and ending homelessness.

The City of Topeka’s Housing Services Division has totaled the numbers from this year’s point-in-time count. This one day event produced a snapshot of individuals in our community experiencing homelessness.
• 441 People experiencing homelessness.
• 349 Households experiencing homelessness.
• 212 individuals have a serious mental illness.
• 181 individuals are chronically homeless.
• 70% of people were in an emergency shelter, 15% were in transitional housing and 15% were unsheltered.

Forty-two individuals helped with the point-in-time homeless count, including 23 community volunteers. Below is a chart that details and compares the numbers from 2018 and 2019.

2018                                                        2019

People 419 441
Households 322 349
% of single adults 88 90
% of adults with children 12 10
% of youth households 7 16
% of veteran households 19 12
People with serious mental illness 183 212
People who are chronically homeless 153 181
People with a substance abuse disorder 69 112
People who are victims of domestic violence 34 49
% in an emergency shelter 66 70
% in transitional housing 17 15
% unsheltered 15 15

Jessica Lamendola Named City of Topeka Administrative and Financial Services Director

Jessica Lamendola will be the City of Topeka’s Administrative and Financial Services Director starting March 4, 2019. Topeka’s former Director of Finance and Administrative Services, Nickie Lee, accepted a job as the Assistant City Administrator for the City of Smithville, Missouri. Her last day at the City of Topeka was November 9, 2018. Since her departure, Budget and Performance Manager Nick Hawkins has been serving as the Interim Director.

Lamendola is a Kansas native and has been with the City of North Hempstead, New York since July of 2016 where she served as the Director of Finance and Acting Comptroller. Prior to that position she had experience in the Nassau County Office of Management and Budget. Lamendola brings additional relevant experience to the City from working for Moody’s Investor Services for just over 3 years as a Senior Credit and financial analyst responsible for a large portfolio of municipal issuers. She has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Syracuse University and a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Political Science from the University of Portland.

“Lamendola’s education, background and experiences will be very beneficial to the City of Topeka as we start work on the 2020 budget and CIP process,” said City Manager Brent Trout.

Lamedola said she is excited to return to Kansas and begin working in the City of Topeka where she can work on the city’s strong financial management and constituent needs.

Lamendola was selected though a competitive hiring process in which 34 people applied and 4 were interviewed. Her starting salary will be $132,500.

Fire Station #6 to Unveil Public Art by Local Artist

City of Topeka Fire Station #6 is the second oldest fire station in Topeka, built in 1935, and is an integral part of the Oakland neighborhood. When the road around Fire Station #6 was redone the fire hydrant was put out of commission and replaced. The Firefighters at station #6 saw an opportunity repurpose the decommissioned fire hydrant and turn it into public art to honor the Oakland neighborhood. The Firefighter union donated funds to sandblast and prime the fire hydrant and local artist Andy Valdivia painted the hydrant to reflect the rich cultural heritage in Oakland. The fire hydrant is painted to show the Hispanic and German cultures in the neighborhood along with the historic fire station building.
“The firefighters who work in Station #6 love the Oakland neighborhood and its rich culture. We are so excited to repurpose this decommissioned fire hydrant into public art for all our neighbors in Oakland to enjoy,” said Fire Marshal Mike Martin. “We hope that this fire hydrant will remind people of fire safety in their homes and help be a reminder to check your smoke detector to make sure it is working.”
The fire hydrant will be unveiled to the public on Saturday, January 26th at noon at Fire Department #6 located at 1419 SE Seward. At the unveiling the Fire Department will be handing out applications for free smoke detectors. The American Red Cross will also be in attendance to talk about their Sound the Alarm campaign that will be in the Oakland neighborhood on April 27th to install free smoke detectors in homes in the area.
The City of Topeka Fire Department is committed to making sure that our citizens have working smoke detectors in their home in case of a fire and fire safety knowledge. In 2018 there were 7 fires in Oakland that resulted in one death, two injuries, one firefighter injury and approximately $210,000 in damages.

Point-In-Time Count of Homeless Persons

Homelessness in Kansas and across the country is on the rise. In the past year, the Topeka Rescue Mission has seen record numbers of guests in the shelter with the biggest increase being in persons with mental health challenges. Kansas schools have also seen large increases in homeless children and youth.
It is important for the City of Topeka to obtain the appropriate level of funding so that we can provide needed services to those experiencing homelessness and those at risk for homelessness. To receive funding for programs, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities to complete a point-in-time count of the homeless every year.
This year’s Point-In-Time Count will be held on Wednesday, January 23 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“Topeka is committed to helping the homeless in our community. The point in time homeless count is the first important step to see where the most need is,” said Corrie Wright, Division Director of Housing Services for the City of Topeka. The information gathered will help Topeka to:
• Understand the face of homelessness within the community;
• Make sure services are meeting the needs of homeless persons;
• Raise public awareness about the issues surrounding homelessness; and
• Measure community progress towards preventing and ending homelessness.
Help us make sure that everyone is counted!
Persons who are experiencing homelessness or know someone who is, please call 785-368-0168 between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on January 23rd, or drop by the Rescue Mission or Let’s Help and complete a survey that day. Interviewers will also be available at the City Offices – Holliday Building. 620 SE Madison, Holliday Conference Room from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on January 23th.

Topeka Zoo Wins AGC Award for Camp Cowabunga

The Topeka Zoo and Mohan Construction have been awarded the Associated General Contractors of Kansas (AGC) State Building Award of Excellence for their work on the Camp Cowabunga exhibit.
“We are honored that Camp Cowabunga will receive the Award of Excellence from both the AGC State Building Awards and the Kan-Struct Collaborative Awards,” said Steve Mohan the CEO of Mohan Construction. “These awards are the result of the work and cooperation of the City of Topeka, The Topeka Zoo, GLMV Architecture, Studio Tectonic and the many subcontractors and suppliers on this project. This is a great addition for the Topeka Zoo and the City of Topeka, and Mohan Construction is proud to be part of it.”
Camp Cowabunga broke ground on July 6th, 2017 and was completed and opened to the public on August, 31st 2018. Camp Cowabunga was the largest project in the Topeka Zoo’s history and creates the atmosphere of being on a safari in Africa, with the exhibit honoring Gary K. Clarke’s safari experiences in Africa as a tour guide. Camp Cowabunga houses several animals including African lions, African painted dogs, Red Patas monkeys, guinea fowl and ostriches. Camp Cowabunga also features interactive learning experiences that are fun and education for guests. Opening weekend of Camp Cowabunga saw 9,857 guests who enjoyed their first experience of the Topeka Zoo’s master plan. Camp Cowabunga cost $4.5 million and was funded privately and through sales tax. Private donations to Camp Cowabunga were represented by donors in 38 states.
“It is an honor to receive the AGC Award of Excellence for Camp Cowabunga.” said Zoo Director Brendan Wiley. “Camp Cowabunga gives our guests a chance to experience what it is like to be on an African safari. Mohan Construction perfectly executed the vision that we had for Camp Cowabunga and it has been wonderful to see all of the positive reactions from zoo patrons.”
The award will be presented on Friday, February 1st 2019 in Wichita at the Associated General Contractors of Kansas State Building Awards Luncheon. Head to the Topeka Zoo to experience the award winning exhibit. The Topeka Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the gates closing at 4:30 p.m. The Zoo will be closed on New Year’s Day.

Different Drop-off for Post-holiday Tree Recycling Program

The Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center will be accepting used live Christmas trees again this year beginning as early as December 26 but the Zoo is asking that a different tree drop off location be used.
It is as easy as dropping the tree off at our new location just east of the horseshoe court parking lot inside Gage Park. When entering Gage Park from the 10th St. entrance, take your first right on Munn Memorial Drive; heading northwest. Look for the orange snow fence and place your tree in the grass, behind the “Trees Here” sign.
“There is no need to make an appointment,” said Zoo Director Brendan Wiley. “We’ll find them and get them to the animals that can use them.”
In order for the trees to be able to be used by the zoo animals, the trees need to be free of ornaments tinsel, tree stands and not in plastic bags.
“This allows the trees to be used beyond the holiday season,” said Wiley. “Animals that benefit from them include lions, tigers, owls, mountain lions, giraffes, elephants, bears and many others.”
Once the animals have had plenty of fun with the varieties of conifers donated, they will be ground up through a chipper and made into mulch for continued reuse.
The zoo will accept the trees through Jan. 8th 2019.

Topeka Zoo Holiday Lights Recycling Drive

The Topeka Zoo wants your old worn out and broken Holiday Lights. Tired of trying to figure out which one of those little bulbs is causing that strand of lights to stay dark? Join the Topeka Zoo’s Holiday Lights Recycling Drive!
The holiday lights recycling drive is designed to prevent thousands of pounds of unused, unwanted, or broken holiday lights from going to a landfill. Through the holiday season when so many holiday lights are found to be broken or unwanted, simply drop them off at the front entrance of the Topeka Zoo. Holiday lights dropped off will be collected and turned in where their parts will be separated, allowing 100% of each light unit to be recycled.
All drop-offs of holiday lights must be deposited in the marked containers at the zoo’s front entrance, and can be accepted at any time of the day seven days a week. Rope lights, garland lights, C7, C9, mini lights, and LED holiday lights are all accepted. Yard light displays can be accepted as long as they contain electric wiring and can be broken down to lay flat for storage and transportation. Please do NOT drop off holiday trees with lights still attached to them. Separate lights from the trees before drop off.
Holiday lights can be turned in for recycling from November 15th, 2018 – January 15th, 2019. Lights cannot be accepted after January 15th.
For questions or more information on the Topeka Zoo’s Holiday Lights Recycling Drive, please contact Dennis Dinwiddie at ddinwiddie@topeka.org, or 785-368-9134.

Topeka Fire Department Welcomes New Accelerant Detection Canine Benny

The Topeka Fire Department is pleased to announce the addition of our new Alcohol Tobacco and Fire Arms (ATF) Accelerant Detection Canine Benny. Benny will take the place of Webster, who died in March of this year. The Topeka Fire Department would like to invite our media partners to come meet Benny and see a demonstration of his skills in detecting the presence of ignitable liquids.
Benny is a 2 year old male Yellow Labrador Retriever who completed his training at the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Canine Training Center at Front Royal, Virginia. His Handler, Fire Investigator James Vollintine, completed an intensive 6 week training program on December 7, 2018, where he was introduced to Benny and they received their ATF Accelerant Detection Canine certification.
Benny will respond throughout the City of Topeka, Kansas and assists investigators in detecting the presence of ignitable liquids at fire scenes. When requested, Benny will respond throughout northeast Kansas and the Midwest region to assist other agencies. Benny will also assist with public relations and educational programming.

City of Topeka Potential Victim of a Cyber-Attack

12/13 Update

If you are concerned about the exposure of your credit or debit card information, please access www.IC3.gov to file a complaint. The Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3 accepts online Internet crime complaints.

In order to file a complaint on IC3, you will need personal information, including your address, telephone, and email. You will also need financial transaction information, specific details on how you were victimized and any other relevant information that you believe is necessary to support your complaint.

When filling out a complaint with IC3, please be sure to include Click-2-Gov in the description part of the incident form. The City of Topeka is cooperating with the FBI and your input and information are valuable to support cooperation efforts.

Original Post

On the afternoon of December 7th, the City of Topeka was notified by our Utility Billing Payment System software vendor Central Square that the City of Topeka has been a potential victim cyber-attack. This potential data breach has not been confirmed at this time. Central Square has turned over their information to a forensics investigator to confirm the potential breach of the City of Topeka Utility Billing Payment System. On Saturday, December 8th the City of Topeka Information Technology team went through the data breach system and did not see any malicious activity. As a potential victim of a cyber-attack, the City of Topeka wants to keep our costumers information safe and city Information Technology staff worked with the software vendor on December 7th to transition the current online Utility Billing Payment System to a more secure platform as advised by the software vendor. Local law enforcement and the FBI have been notified of the potential breach.

The City of Topeka is working with very limited information at this time regarding the potential cyber-attack. The data breach occurred between October 31st and December 7th. The data breach would affect any City of Topeka Utilities customer who made a one-time payment or set up autopay during this time. E-checks and customers who set up autopay before October 31st will not be affected. While this potential compromise has not been confirmed by a qualified forensic investigator yet, the City is strongly recommending, as a precautionary measure, customers who make credit card or debit card transactions using the online Utility Billing Payment System between October 31st and December 7th to contact their credit card issuer for advice related to the potential exposure of their credit card information.

As the potential victim of a cyber-attack, the City of Topeka has identified that up to 10,000 customers have been potentially impacted by the data breach. City of Topeka Utilities Department will be sending a letter to customers whose information has potentially been impacted.

Information on the potential breach will be on the City of Topeka website front page and updated as information becomes available. You can find more information on how to respond to a data breach at: https://www.ftc.gov/data-breach-resources

Topeka Police unveil identification cards for the unsheltered

The Topeka Police Department is proud to announce a new collaborative state-of-the-art initiative to help the unsheltered and indigent population in Topeka.

TPD has started issuing official City of Topeka Personal Identification Cards, an initiative that has never been done in Kansas. The cards are meant to bridge the gap for the unsheltered or those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford or have the proper documentation to apply for a state issued ID. The city issued ID cards are free and available to anyone in need.

The City of Topeka issued ID card will include the person’s legal name, photo, signature, date of birth, personal demographics, address or last know location, and Kansas State ID card number if applicable. In order to qualify, individuals must go through the Topeka Police Department for this process.

The City of Topeka issued IDs can be used to apply for a job through Day Labor Services, apply for residency and more.

“We are very excited to have partnered on this progressive effort to aid the unsheltered population in Topeka. These ID cards will allow people to gain access to a wide range of services that otherwise would not be available to them,” said Chief Bill Cochran. “Proper identification is a crucial element on the path towards gaining self-sustainability for this section of our population. We are here to help them along the way.”

In Kansas, to apply for a state issued identification card, you must have proof of identification. Many unsheltered people don’t have proof of identification, making the process nearly impossible.

In partnership with the Kansas Department of Revenue and Kansas Department of Health and Environment: Office of Vital Statistics, the Topeka Police Department is streamlining this normally difficult process. KDOR will be accepting the city issued ID card as proof of identification, which will then allow a person to get a temporary one-year state issued ID card. With that temporary state issued ID, the person has one year to go to Vital Statistics to get a copy of their birth certificate. With the temporary state ID card and the official copy of their birth certificate, they are then able to go to Social Security to get a copy of their social security card. After this process is complete, they can then go back to KDOR to get their official state ID. There will be a cost associated with applying for the temporary state ID card and official state ID card.

The identification process for the City of Topeka issued ID card will be in depth, to make sure that the person is identified correctly. This process will take anywhere between a week to a month.
The Topeka Rescue Mission will be assisting in our unsheltered and indigent outreach efforts as we work to identify those who can benefit from this initiative.

“One of the greatest barriers to success for unsheltered individuals is the inability to obtain legal identification. Without this identification, unsheltered individuals and families are unable to obtain employment, open a bank account, attend many educational opportunities and often move into safe and affordable housing. All too often they have nowhere else to turn other than the shelters of the Topeka Rescue Mission or the streets,” said Barry Feaker, Topeka Rescue Mission Executive Director. “Once again, the Topeka Police Department, under the leadership of Chief Bill Cochran and dedicated Officers like Sgt. Josh Klamm who has spearheaded this initiative, have created an innovative way to serve those most in need. I believe this new initiative may prove to be one of the greatest tools to breaking the cycle for unsheltered individuals that we have discovered thus far and undoubtedly will be replicated in other communities. It’s an honor to work alongside the men and women of TPD as they continually look for ways to protect and serve all of our citizens.”

It is important for people to understand that the city issued ID cards are free, but will not come with the same rights as a state issued ID card, driver’s license or passport, which will come at a cost.

Anyone interested in getting a City of Topeka Identification Card can email Sgt. Josh Klamm at jklamm@topeka.org. You can also come down to the Law Enforcement Center located at 320 S Kansas Ave. Suite 100 and speak with an officer at the front desk for assistance.