After Missoula Mayor John Engen and all three Missoula County Commissioners held a press conference on June 1 to announce that a critical management team would be created to address the problem of camping in the ‘urban wild’, Office of Emergency Management Director Adriane Beck was tasked with putting that team together.

Beck appeared on the KGVO City Talk Program on Friday with City of Missoula Communications Director Ginny Merriam to answer questions about the project from our listeners.

Beck outlined the scope of her efforts.

“Our office was asked to stand up an incident management team structure to address illegal camping in the urban area of Missoula,” said Beck. “The reason for that is such an incident management team structure can really come in and use objectives based management to try to quickly identify a problem and come up with some solutions, and so that's what we've been asked to do.”

Beck said the effort to address the homeless problem has been limited by the COVID 19 protocols in Missoula’s existing facilities that are still in effect.

“Our infrastructure that serves the homeless population, the Poverello Center and many of our other shelters are still operating at a 50 percent capacity,” she said. “That's not by their choice necessarily. They're following the guidance from the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control that that continues to recommend that we have social distancing in those congregate living facilities, so that very recommendation from the CDC does cause an additional exacerbation of the problem that we've had for a long time.”

Beck said some of the important aspects of such a site would necessarily put it near city and county infrastructure and services.

“You know, you don't want just one huge big site with a lot of sprawl,” she said. “We wanted to keep it relatively small so that you can be organized and how it's laid out and those kinds of things. And so we were looking at size, and the availability of utilities. As we've mentioned, the ability to have facilities that allow for basic human needs oftentimes require electricity sometimes requires sewer, and almost always require potable water.”

Beck said any site that may be considered for such a facility must provide a logical choice for the potential user.

“When we think about the objective of the city and the county, which is to end illegal camping in the urban wild, we want to be able to provide an option that is easy to navigate to by way of public transportation, with good sidewalk infrastructure, good road infrastructure, so that when that person is encountered in an unsafe situation, the conversation can be such of, well, you can't be here, but you can go here and that getting to here wherever it is, is relatively easy.”

Anyone with suggestions on the proposed program are asked to visit solutions@missoulacounty.us.

 

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