Missoula County Commissioners presented an update on ‘Operation Shelter’ on Thursday in the Sophie Moiese meeting room in the Missoula County Courthouse.

View the entire meeting here.

A campground plan review was presented by Shelter Project Coordinator Casey Gannon, who described the location of the proposed camping area behind the Super Wal-Mart store off of North Reserve and Mullan Road on Clark Fork Lane.

“We have Mullan and Reserve right here,” began Gannon. “Behind the Walmart that's off of that corner is the site we're looking at. It’s a three acre site and it's pretty close to resources, so it's only point three miles to the grocery and point seven miles to a bus stop, so there’s good access for people staying there.”

Gannon provided details of services planned at the site.

“The plan for services that will be at this campground area will be that we'll have some bathrooms there,” he said. “There'll be trash removal, and in terms of dumpsters, we'll just be putting out some areas for people per campsite. There'll be security at the site and then we're also working on having water available at the site.”

There were negative comments provided by some business owners near the site.

“Missoula needs to really rethink where they're putting these people,” he said. “I know this is a sensitive subject, but if you want to talk about removing people's dignity pretty quickly, then put them next to the sewer and water treatment facility and a compost facility. We have a pretty large building over there. It's pretty busy and it's nasty. It's gross. The compost facility is disgusting. We need to give these folks an opportunity to be successful and this would be embarrassing if the city approved this.”

County Commissioner Josh Slotnick said every effort will be made to provide a shelter with the lowest possible barriers for those who have traditionally been camping illegally in Missoula.

“Part of our hope here is seek to make it so no one is living where there isn't any sanitation,” said Commissioner Slotnick. “This would be the lowest barrier. Pretty much anybody can walk in. There'll be some levels of controls, not nearly as nice as a hotel, not nearly as nice as a hard sided heated shelter, but there needs to be a place for people who don't want either of those and yet shouldn't be camping where they're not supposed to be camping.”

Anyone who wishes to provide comments on the Operation Shelter project is asked to visit the Engage Missoula website.

The question to apply for a permit was approved unanimously by the County Commissioners.

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