City of Missoula staff, working together over the past few days with the Poverello Center helped homeless people camping illegally on Cedar Street find alternative shelter.

Mayor John Engen provided details of the city’s response to the illegal camp.

“We of course like everyone, began seeing the ad hoc campsite set up on Cedar Street over the course of the last week and a half or so, and we began working with the Poverello Center, city staff and crews and other partners to both collaboratively recognize that we're not in the business of promoting or allowing these ad hoc sites to exist,” said Mayor Engen.

Engen pointed to recent meetings to establish Operation Shelter, that will eventually provide safe, secure outdoor camping facilities off North Reserve Street.

“You'll recall a few months ago, we began the process of establishing a second sanctioned camp site,” he said. “We're in the process of getting that site together, but in the meantime, we couldn't have people sleeping on the street outside of the Poverello Center. So working directly with the Pov and all of these agencies again, letting folks who have taken up residence know that we will be asking them to pick up and move along and cleaning up that street in that corridor.”

Engen said it was a group effort to provide shelter and services to the individuals and families in the Cedar Street camp.

“This morning again working with our friends at the Poverello Center and city staff, we were able to get the street cleared,” he said. “A number of folks through our outreach were able to access services and in some cases services they didn't know were available to them. Our partners at the YWCA were enormously helpful in housing a number of women who needed help, and we managed to make some really good connections there, and again, working with our partners to get things cleaned up.”

Engen said if any other ad hoc sites pop up, the city and the Poverello Center will continue to attempt to help them access legal shelter.

“The Missoula County Commissioners and I believe a majority of the city council and frankly, the residents I serve generally agree, that those ad hoc campsites aren't safe, nor are they desirable,” he said. “So we're going to keep working on making people as safe as they can. If people are camping illegally, we're going to ask them to move along. But we're going to do that by providing any support that we can in terms of temporary shelter or support and ultimately long term stable housing.”

Engen said special thanks went to the professionals of the Homeless Outreach Team, the Missoula Police Department and the City’s Crisis Intervention Team staff and their training.

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