Reserve Street Camps Update And Interview Teaser

by William Skink

Today I taped an interview with NBC Montana about my work at the shelter trying to address the homeless encampments under and around the Reserve Street bridge. After the interview I accompanied the reporter and the camera person down to the camps to see for myself what is happening.

I spoke directly with two people living at the camps. Over the years doing the work I did, I developed a pretty good bullshit detector. I did not get the sense that the two guys I talked to were bullshitting me.

I was told that people living at the camps are not getting much direct communication. No one was told they could use the dumpster that just appeared one day. The man I talked to claimed the area is being used as a dumpster by mainly outsiders, though he said some newcomers who are camping are being ignorant.

I thought back to the interview, which we taped near the water treatment plant on the other side of the river. While taping we could hear an argument coming from inside a tent at the camps, and it got loud enough and aggressive enough we paused the interview.

There seems to be respect for the Union Gospel efforts to help people, spearheaded by April. The Pov is out there as well, two times a week, but there time is limited, I was told.

While we were leaving, one of the campers we had talked to decided to let NBC Montana interview him. I had to go, so didn’t get a chance to hear what he said, but when it goes online I’ll link to it in the comments.

That is all for now. Time to go jump in a river.

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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8 Responses to Reserve Street Camps Update And Interview Teaser

  1. ez2plez says:

    Let’s never forget “ SEAN STEVENSON “ 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

  2. NBC Montana article, link

  3. Eric says:

    How many people would you estimate live at the Camp?

    A dozen, or is it hundreds like the ‘Hooverville’ on Grapes of Wrath?

    • it’s not about how many people live out there. I was told at least 12 people at the camps have an income but can’t find housing, and I don’t doubt that’s the truth. housing is run by gatekeepers and predators in this town, and in every town. if that doesn’t change, then tents and other makeshift structures will be considered home by more and more people as depression-era shanty towns return.

  4. Eric says:

    Don’t misunderstand – Sleeping in a transient camp is for somebody in a desperate situation, an$ I was just wondering how many people found themselves there.

    For their sake, and Missoula’s sake – I’m hoping it’s not a lot.

  5. There are a lot of unknowns with this homeless camp story in the news lately. For instance:

    Why is the Health Department pushing for fines now? Human waste in the river has been an issue for years there.

    For years MDT said it was a patchwork of localities, and the could do nothing. Now they admit they can put a fence up, and might have to if they start getting fined this fall.

    When will the fines start? Much depends on this.

    When the fines do start, how much will they be each day/week? Does this money go directly into the Health Department’s budget to spend as they want, or the general fund?

    How much in fines will MDT put up with before they install a fence?

    When a fence does go up and the camp is off-limits, where are the homeless people supposed to go…besides downtown.

    I can’t help but think this whole thing is designed so the people from the camp will be forced to go downtown, creating a community discussion about where to house them next…which might very well be the federal building at that point. A lot of this seems very sketchy. I don’t believe for a second that human waste in the river – an old problem – is now spurring the Health Department into action. Something else is going on. I’d follow the money.

  6. Eric says:

    After re-reading the last few posts, I’m thinking that Missoula could become a mini- San Francisco, with tent communities lining selected streets and alleys, and the city telling the homeowners too bad, so sad.

  7. Tim A says:

    I wish these problems weren’t so ignored. I don’t think people can call themselves real progressives when they continually ignore the affordable housing problem in the area. You can’t move 1,000 people a year to an area and not see the middle and lower class lose their space.
    I live in Bonner and there are a man and woman who separately just ride the bus out here to sit and read for the day. They live in just whatever they get from public assistance but don’t have permanent housing. I worked at the Town Pump at Reserve/Mullan and would chat with people a lot of the time. There are some genuine d-bags but many of them would do well if they just got a chance. If you have any record, forget it. I talked to one guy who was spending $500 a month just on the applications for housing but always got rejected cuz he was on probation.
    At some point I’m with these guys marching into the South Hills with torches. Too many rich and comfortable when so little being done could turn it around. :/ Why pay more than $10/hr when we can move in refugees with little skills to take up the public housing! Import more problems and solve none so white Karens can fee good about themselves.

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