City of Topeka releases 2024 ‘Point in Time Homeless Count’ numbers

Topeka and Shawnee County’s homeless population has increased by 125 people since
2023, according to numbers released Friday from the City of Topeka’s annual Point in Time Homeless
Count.

The count took place on January 25, 2024. The one-day event provides a snapshot of the individuals in
the community who are experiencing homelessness, as defined by the United States Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD). More than 40 people helped with this year’s count.
The Topeka and Shawnee County Continuum of Care (CoC) held off on releasing their annual Point in
Time data in order to collaborate with other CoC’s across the state. Statewide collaboration will not only
give them better data, but allows for more funding opportunities. However, given the recent inquires,
the Topeka/ Shawnee County CoC is releasing their local data ahead of the statewide release.

“After the Continuum of Care communities submits their Point-in-Time results, HUD reviews the data
and then gives the CoCs a thumbs up when they approve the reports,” said Christy McMurphy,
Executive Director for the Kansas State Homeless Coalition. “For the first time, the Kansas Continuum of
Care leads decided to compile a statewide Point-In-Time report, to be released after all Kansas’ CoC data
has been approved by HUD. The statewide report will list each Kansas CoC’s results as well as a
statewide compilation.”

According to the count, 537 people and 442 households are experiencing homelessness in Topeka and
Shawnee County. 62% of those who are homeless are male, while 37% are female. 203 people are
unsheltered, meaning they are not living in an emergency shelter or in transitional housing.

“In light of the national trend indicating a rise in homelessness, the increase comes as no surprise to us,”
said Carrie Higgins, Housing Services Division Director. “We are fortunate to have great partners that
collaborate with us and we used the PIT count as another touch point to connect individuals to
services.”

Below is a chart that breaks down the numbers from the previous four counts. For a more detailed look
at the 2024 number, visit:
https://citymanager.s3.amazonaws.com/City+of+Topeka+Point+in+Time+Homeless+Count+2024.pdf

 

To receive funding for programs, HUD requires communities complete a count each year. The count
ensures the city can obtain the appropriate level of funding to be able to provide needed services to
those experiencing homelessness and those at risk for homelessness.

2020 2021 2022 2023 2024
People 401 298 365 412 537
Households 306 254 297 322 442
# of Veteran Households 40 16 37 25 47
# of Individuals in an Emergency Shelter 254 155 163 194 276
# of Individuals in Transitional Housing 51 38 54 61 58
# of Individuals Unsheltered 68 105 148 157 203

Topeka Municipal Court Temporary Closure

The City of Topeka’s Municipal Court will be closed to the public on Wednesday, May 22, 2024 due to technical issues with the Court’s internet and phone systems.

During Wednesday’s closure, no in-person dockets will be held, and the Court will not be open for walk-in business.

The Court is working to notify those impacted by Wednesday’s closure.

All cases on Wednesday will be rescheduled and notices of hearing will be sent by mail to defendants and defense counsel.

The city expects to be able to provide an update on Wednesday afternoon on the status of the impacted systems.

Jamey Haltom named as Interim Police Chief

The City of Topeka is pleased to announce that Deputy Police Chief Jamey Haltom has been appointed as Interim Police Chief, effective June 25, following the retirement of Chief Bryan Wheeles.

Interim Chief Haltom brings a wealth of experience to his new role, having been with the Topeka Police Department (TPD) since June 1999. He has served as Deputy Chief since November of 2021, showcasing his dedication to the department and the community.

Throughout his extensive career in law enforcement, Interim Chief Haltom has held various leadership positions including roles as a corporal and sergeant in the field operations bureau and the support operations bureau. As a commander, he was promoted to lieutenant where he led teams in the support operations bureau. He was then promoted to captain where he made strategic decisions in the field operations bureau (patrol) and in the criminal investigations bureau, prior to assuming the position of deputy chief.

Haltom holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Washburn University and is a Certified Public Manager. He has also completed executive leadership training programs through the Northwestern Center for Public Safety School of Police Staff and Command as well as the Law Enforcement Leadership Academy Command School. He is rooted in the community, having previously served on the Boys & Girls Club Board of Directors. Haltom is from Pratt, Kansas, and he resides in Topeka with his wife and their three children.

“I am deeply honored to step into the role of Interim Police Chief for the Topeka Police Department,” said Haltom. “Over the past 25 years with this department, I have seen firsthand the dedication and hard work of our officers in keeping our community safe, and I look forward to leading the department as we search for a new police chief.”

“I am confident that Interim Chief Haltom will provide strong and steady leadership for TPD during this transition period,” said Interim City Manager Richard Nienstedt. “His experience and deep commitment to serving others makes him well-suited to guide the department as the city searches for a permanent police chief.”

Haltom will serve as Interim Chief until the governing body selects a permanent police chief.

City of Topeka receives $4.3 million to create safer streets

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the City of Topeka will receive $4,312,000 to enhance traffic and pedestrian safety.

This Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grant is the largest competitive grant award the City has received. Topeka received the third largest SS4A amount awarded by the USDOT to 99 communities in the country during this first round of announcements. Additionally, the Build Kansas Fund will provide the city with the grant’s 20% match requirement, bringing the total funding to $5,390,000 at no fiscal impact to the city.

This funding will allow for the development of a holistic, community-wide strategic plan called the Comprehensive Safety Action Plan (CSAP). In addition to the CSAP, the funding will also allow the City to carry out demonstration activities in concurrence with the Plan to inform future infrastructure investment.

“By emphasizing safety impact, equity considerations, and collaborating with stakeholders, we are committed to creating a safer and more inclusive environment for all members of our community,” Director of Public Works Braxton Copley said.

Thirteen groups – including local, county and state organizations – provided letters of support for this application, demonstrating a strong endorsement from the community.

The SS4A discretionary program was established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) with $5 billion in appropriated funds over five years, 2022-2026. This is the first BIL grant the City has been awarded. The SS4A program funds regional, local, and Tribal initiatives through grants to prevent roadway deaths and serious injuries.

For a full list of Round 1 grant recipients, visit Safe Streets and Roads for All Fiscal Year 2024 Planning and Demonstration Grant Awards by State (transportation.gov).

Topeka City Council to vote on contract of next city manager

The City of Topeka announced Friday that the Governing Body will vote during the City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 14 to formally name Dr. Robert Perez to serve as Topeka’s next city manager. Perez comes to the city after serving as an Assistant City Manager for the City of Dallas, Texas.

“The Governing Body invested considerable time and effort into their selection process, and we’re excited that Dr. Perez has been selected,” said Topeka Mayor Michael Padilla. “I have full confidence in his ability to lead the City of Topeka and guide us toward our strategic goals.”

With over 20 years of municipal government experience, Perez holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Education with a concentration in organizational leadership, a Master of Public Administration, and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in political science.

His background is in Public Works, and he has published numerous academic articles covering diverse topics such as the nexus between data and infrastructure, as well as innovation in local government. During a vast majority of his most recent role, Perez provided executive leadership to the City of Dallas’ Department of Public Works, Transportation, Bond and Construction Management, Equipment and Fleet Services and Building Services. Through a reorganization, Perez was recently assigned to oversee the Department of Sanitation, Code Compliance, Animal Care Services, Homeless Solution, and 311 Customer Service.

“I’m extremely honored and excited to begin leading the City of Topeka as its next city manager,” Perez said. “Public service is important to me, and I look forward to getting to know and serving the community in the near future.”

Topeka’s Governing Body is expected to formally approve Perez’s contract during the May 14th City Council Meeting. The one-year contract includes Perez’s base salary, which will be $255,000.

While Perez’s start date is still being finalized, it is anticipated to be sometime between late June and early July. Perez will be moving to Topeka from Dallas with his wife, Harim Perez, and their miniature schnauzer, Sebastian.

On April 8, five City Manager finalists participated in interview panels with the Governing Body and community stakeholders. Following those interviews, the Governing Body conducted follow-up interviews with Perez and another candidate. Initially, more than 40 applicants applied for the position.

City of Topeka introduces Public Safety Team Scholarship for summer theatre camp

The City of Topeka Public Safety Team is thrilled to unveil a new scholarship initiative aimed at providing enriching theatrical experiences for low-to-moderate income children in the community.

Through a partnership with the Topeka Civic Theatre & Academy (TCT), the Public Safety Scholarship offers an exciting opportunity for children of all ages from diverse socio-economic backgrounds to engage in the transformative world of theatre.

“I wanted to give kids in the Capital City a platform to explore their creative side through the performing arts,” said Chief Wheeles. “Summer camp experiences have the power to forge lasting memories, foster positive relationships and build self-confidence in children, all while ensuring their safety and enjoyment.”

The scholarship is awarded to cover a substantial part of the entire cost for one of TCT’s summer camps, based on federal income guidelines for free or reduced lunches, and will benefit seven eligible children. TCT offers a range of camp options including week-long, three-week-long, and technical camps tailored to children aged 4 through 17.

“The Topeka Civic Theatre has been a cornerstone of our community since it opened in 1936, enriching the lives of residents,” said Fire Chief Randy Phillips. “I have seen first-hand the impact summer camps have and I’m excited to establish this scholarship and empower kids in our community for years to come.”

Established in 1936, the Topeka Civic Theatre & Academy has been a vibrant hub for theatrical arts in the Topeka community. With a mission to share the joy of live theatre, TCT offers a diverse range of performances, educational programs and outreach initiatives.

For more information about the scholarship, eligibility guidelines, and available camps, visit https://topekacivictheatre.com/scholarships.

If you are interested in learning more about the scholarship, getting to know the staff, and visiting their facility, TCT will host an open house with the Public Safety Team on Wednesday, May 22, 2024 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at TCT, located at 3028 SW 8th Ave.

City of Topeka awarded grant for domestic violence intervention

The City of Topeka is proud to announce it has been awarded a United States Department of Justice (DOJ) grant to provide a batterers intervention treatment program to Topeka residents.

The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) has awarded the Grants to Improve the Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) totaling $488,045 to facilitate batterers intervention treatment through local service providers Halley Counseling Services and the Family Peace Initiative.

In 2022, the City Prosecutor’s Office assumed responsibility for handling misdemeanor domestic battery cases, aiming to offer a more personalized approach at helping victims and their families in domestic violence situations. The ICJR will enable the prosecutor’s office to extend assistance to eligible offenders who lack the financial means to participate in intervention programs, ensuring accountability in their sentencing.

“This grant represents a significant step forward in our efforts to address domestic violence in our community,” said Chief of Prosecution Kelly Trussell. “By providing access to intervention programs, we are better equipped to support both victims and offenders, fostering safer and healthier environments for residents and stopping the cycle of violence.”

The OVW, a division of the DOJ, administers grant programs aimed to develop the nation’s ability to reduce domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking by strengthening services to victims and holding offenders accountable.

Read more about the OVW’s Grants to Improve Criminal Justice Response here: https://www.justice.gov/ovw/improving-criminal-justice-responses-program

 

Fiber cut impacting City of Topeka services

As of shortly after 11 a.m. this morning, some City of Topeka services are currently experiencing outages due to a cut in a fiber line. At this time the services that are impacted are the Customer Service Center, Water Pollution Control, Facilities, and Topeka Fire Station 11. As a result, customers calling for service may experience delays. Calls for emergency services are not impacted at this time and are operating as normal.
The City Express Center located at the Cyrus K. Holliday Building at 620 SE Madison remains open for walk-in assistance.
City staff are currently working to determine the cause of the disruption. At this time, it is not believed to be related to a cyberattack or other malicious act.
We appreciate the community’s patience as staff works to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.

City of Topeka to plant tree at Statehouse in celebration of Arbor Day

In recognition of Arbor Day, staff from the City of Topeka’s Forestry Division, will plant a tree at the statehouse grounds on Friday, April 26, 2024.

Arbor Day is an annual holiday dedicated to the planting, care, and preservation of trees, observed on the last Friday of April each year.

On Friday at around 10 a.m., city staff will plant a Black Cherry tree in the northeast corner of the Kansas State Capitol Building grounds.

“We’re proud to continue the tradition of Arbor Day by planting a tree on the capitol grounds and a proclamation signing,” said Travis Tenbrink, Forester at the City of Topeka. “Our hope is that by celebrating Arbor Day, we’ll inspire others to join us in planting trees for the benefit of our community.”

Following the tree planting, Governor Laura Kelly will sign a proclamation designating Friday, April 26 as Kansas Arbor Day. The Governor will be joined by city staff, members of the Kansas Arborist Association board, representatives from the Kansas Forest Service, and the winner of the Kansas Arbor Day Poster Contest.

In addition to Arbor Day festivities, the City of Topeka is celebrating its 38th year as a proud member of Tree City USA. This membership underscores the city’s dedication to urban forestry, and recognizes the significant role trees play in enhancing our community.

City of Topeka invites community participation in language access survey

The City of Topeka invites community participation in our Language Access Community Survey.

This survey aims to assess how residents access information about city services and identify opportunities for improvement. The insights gathered will inform the development of the City of Topeka’s Language Access Plan.

Language access refers to the availability of language assistance and resources to individuals who have limited English proficiency (LEP) and could include translation, interpretation, multilingual staff, language access plans, language access training, outreach, and education. By prioritizing language access, we uphold legal obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and strive to overcome language barriers that may hinder access to vital services, including public safety and emergency assistance.

Effective communication with our diverse community is crucial for engagement and collaboration on city initiatives. Additionally, language access promotes economic growth by facilitating communication between businesses and residents of different language backgrounds. By fostering multilingual communication, we create a more inclusive and vibrant city that attracts diverse talent and businesses, enhancing our economic vitality.

“Overall, language access aims to promote linguistic and cultural inclusivity, enhance access to essential services, and ensure that all residents, regardless of their background, can fully participate in society and access the resources they need,” said Interim Director of Diversity Equity and Inclusion Monique Glaudeˊ. “This survey is critical as we deepen our commitment to language access initiatives.”

The Language Access Community Survey is available in English and in Spanish at the links below.

English Language Access Community Survey: https://us.openforms.com/Form/13b5181b-92d6-4bc7-b303-569e0c58094a

Encuesta Comunitaria acerca del acceso lingüístico: https://us.openforms.com/Form/12dabae8-78e5-422b-9f6f-2eb06aa4b375