by Travis Mateer
Earlier this year, before the massive series of cleanups that removed over 67 TONS of trash from the Reserve Street homeless encampments, the legal wrangling over how to remove the people worked its way through court. The result? An eviction process ensued (emphasis mine):
The Missoula County Attorney’s office on Thursday issued formal notice to county leaders of a lawsuit filed last week by the Montana Department of Transportation related to illegal camping under the Reserve Street bridge.
Deputy County Attorney Brian West said the lawsuit names Missoula County as a defendant in the case, along with “John Does one through 100.”
The lawsuit includes five counts including forcible detainer, trespass, a claim for public and private nuisance, a request for injunction and a declaratory action.
“By and large, what MDT is trying to secure is a court order where they can have the sheriff’s office assist them in clearing out the property under the Reserve Street bridge,” West said. “This is more or less the same thing as an eviction lawsuit through the forcible detainer and common-law trespass claims.”
Why is this important? It’s important because a formal eviction process, according to a conversation I had with MDOT’s Steve Felix back in September, necessitated the storage of “personal items”, like everything you see in this picture:
Is it feasible for the Montana Department of Transportation to store tons of trash removed from an illegal homeless encampment? Probably not, but they’re forced to do it anyway.
Since the Authorized Camping Site for “tenants” of Reserve Street closed last week, I decided to visit the area to see what remains, and it looks like LOTS of personal belongings remain. But for how long?
Now that this area is forbidden territory to the public, does it need to be “secured”? The trailer where the private security firm, Rogers International, once stationed their staff is still there, and it sounded like someone was inside, but I didn’t enter this forbidden land to find out. The messaging on the fence is quite clear:
My walkabout below and around the Reserve Street bridge was uneventful, unlike the last time I was in this area, and I didn’t see any evidence of people reestablishing illegal encampments. Yet.
If I can remember to follow up after Thanksgiving, I’ll see if I can find out how long this stuff will be stored, and if it takes private security to keep it safe.
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So here we had the State suing the County to do something that will place city and county in violation of Johnson v. City of Grants Pass and Martin v. City of Boise. The circular firing squad continues, at tremendous cost. It’s time to implement a more serious harm reduction strategy.