by Travis Mateer
Last Friday I spent a little time at the Reserve Street homeless camps as efforts to remove trash got a major infusion of resources, thanks to emergency orders being passed at the last minute, surprising organizer Kevin Davis with heavy equipment to help–and WOW!–did they ever help, to the tune of 40 TONS of trash kept from getting swept into the river during spring runoff.
Here’s the reporting from NBC Montana:
Missoula County Commissioners are expected to consider an emergency proclamation on Tuesday regarding hazardous waste entering the Clark Fork River.
The agenda for the meeting gives no specifics on the resolution.
NBC Montana has been covering volunteer efforts that have now removed 40 tons of garbage from around the Reserve Street Bridge.
The state is filing a lawsuit against Missoula County and a number of homeless people. Volunteers are trying to keep waste from endangering habitat.
This man-made disaster, brought to you by scared Sheriff Deputies and enabling service providers, is not the only man-made problem being dealt with in the area.
A Missoulian story yesterday tells the absurd story of Tully Sanem, a resident of the official outdoor camp on Clark Fork Lane. According to Sanem, he was lured to the camp with the promise of anything goes, so he spent $800 bucks on pallets and nails, only to have his dreams destroyed by city code enforcers.
Here is some of the absurdity as told by Sanem himself:
The destruction of the structures presented a significant financial loss to campers like Sanem, who invested almost $800 into pallets, nails and tools to build a sturdy apparatus.
“I wanted a structure because I don’t want to be huddling up in five blankets when it’s 15 degrees outside,” he said. “I go out, and I work, and I contribute, and I engage in commerce and I help so many people out. I should not have to live in squalor.”
Beyond the immediate security a structure provided to Sanem, he wanted to use the stability of the building to build a foundation for a better life.
“That’s what you need, a foundation,” he said.
He hoped to build up the structure and use it as a base of operations to potentially start a small business or nonprofit building crafts with the other residents of the Authorized Camping Site.
“I wanted to make it a home because everybody wants a home,” he said.
The situation is especially frustrating, Sanem noted, because he checked with authorities at the camp before moving in about six weeks ago.
“We all had the understanding we could do whatever we wanted to do,” he said.
I added the emphasis on what sounds like an embellishment from a client of homeless services, but after speaking with a man who is still actively living at Reserve Street, I’m not so sure.
While volunteers and city officials cleaned up trash (I saw County Commissioner Juanita Vero and City Council member, Kristen Jordan), I walked over to chat with “Drunk Ninja” (this is the name he gave me when I asked).
Drunk Ninja came out of his encampment swinging a machete, which definitely made me a little nervous. After a few minutes, though, Drunk Ninja and I were buddies. He even gave me some weed, which I accepted and DID NOT consume.
Drunk Ninja told me about the various bribes service providers, like the Poverello’s Homeless Outreach Team, tried offering him to get him to relocate, but he refused them all. Now it’s just him, his amphetamine, and a little semi-feral kitten.
After I established a decent rapport with Drunk Ninja, I told him about what happened to Johnny Lee Perry when he was out in the woods swinging around a machete, but I’m not sure my warning was received.
When it comes to the official camp, Tully Sanem is adamant he was given the ok to build BEFORE he relocated.
Sanem said he got the go-ahead to build a structure out of pallets before he even moved into his site at the camp, and he even asked if he could erect a two-story structure. He said he was under the impression all of his building plans would be allowed.
Sebastian said camp supervisors only recently started enforcing regulations about the structures because the buildings made out of pallets were becoming a safety concern.
Sanem and some of his friends at the site say they would not have moved in if they had known tent camping would be their only option.
“After you spend 20 years in a tent, you get really sick of living in a tent,” said a resident who goes by “Shadow.”
Since I’m familiar with one of these clients, I’m going to do some more investigating to get a better sense of what is being promised, and what is actually happening, because I think there is a real disparity there.
So stay tuned, and thanks for reading!