Are The Reserve Street Homeless Camps In Missoula Getting Political?

by William Skink

With weather finally warming in Missoula, the need for a warming center will disappear with the snow.

One reason chronic gaps in services got more attention this past winter is because groups like the Democratic Socialists of America and Food Not Bombs showed up at City Council meetings to make sure the political leadership of Missoula understood that paying lip service to a plan is not enough.

While I appreciate what their additional attention accomplished in the short-term with the band-aid solution that will probably have to repeated next winter, something I heard second hand recently has me concerned.

I had already noticed the semi-permanent structures being built on earthen mounds west of the bridge before hearing that some members of the DSA, FNB and/or the IWW were possibly involved. If true, I wonder what exactly they think they will accomplish building out the homeless camp, especially considering the likelihood of flooding hitting the valley again this spring.

There is already a tremendous amount of trash visible from just the bridge that will be swept down stream if there is no organized effort to do a clean-up. There are also several varieties of shopping carts strewn about. Those carts are technically stolen property, but with the jail perpetually over-crowded, and a Sheriff’s Department (who runs the jail) apparently uninterested in addressing these camps unless someone gets stabbed or shot (which will happen again eventually), it will be up to volunteers and non-profit staff to mitigate the impact of systemic failure.

I really hope there isn’t involvement of said political groups in building structures at the Reserve camps. Besides the trash, the encampments have a history of violence, which tends to happen when you combine things like untreated mental illness and substance abuse.

Exploiting these camps to further a political agenda is stupid. It’s so stupid I am actually starting to wonder if there isn’t something else afoot. I saw first hand how Occupy Missoula was infiltrated. I hope something similar isn’t happening to the DSA.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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