by Travis Mateer
When I was a student at the University of Montana, I walked or biked down the Kim Williams trail whenever I needed a little break from classes. The trail takes you into the Hellgate canyon, so the area is fairly narrow, with a steep rock face to the south, and the Clark Fork river to the north.
When I worked at the Poverello Center, I became aware of this area being used by homeless people. During the summer of 2014, a young man by the name of Kevin Lino was living in this area when a fire started, causing his little gang of street kids to relocate to the Reserve Street area.
Then, in July of 2014, Kevin Lino and another man beat, tortured and executed Jack Berry with a single gunshot to the head before dumping his body into the river. I was involved in helping the Sheriff’s department with the investigation because I spoke with Jack’s girlfriend on the day Jack’s body was found by a fisherman.
Why am I telling this story now?
The Kim Williams area is back in the news because a bear was recently seen rummaging through a tent. The woman who was startled by this bear, Sherene Aun, actually works with homeless people as a mental health advocate, but she seems pretty naive about the notion of cleaning up this area. She called around, as did NBC Montana, only to have the city of Missoula point the proverbial finger at FWP and Parks and Rec:
We reached out to the City who says FWP is who deals with bears, and the City’s Parks and Recreation department removes abandoned camping gear when they’re notified of it.
FWP says there’s one best solution for the safety of campers and trail-goers.
“I would like the city to clean up the camp,” said Jonkel.
As for Aun, she believes the City should take preventative action before someone else isn’t as lucky as she was.
“This is more of a public safety issue that would need to be addressed and I would hate for it to end up as a mauling or a death and then action,” said Aun.
It’s cute that Aun thinks this should be considered a public safety issue and that authorities should therefore do something about it. Maybe the Incident Command Team will address this as part of their mandate to address homelessness in Missoula. If someone would call me back from the ICT (after I called and left a message on Monday) then I’ll ask them about this.
So stay tuned…