Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Urban camping has become a common theme throughout Missoula, and a large number of city and county officials, along with business people and other movers and shakers in the community met on Wednesday at the Missoula Election Center for the first of what could be up to five sessions of the ‘Urban Camping Work Group’.

KGVO News was there and spoke to Mayor Andrea Davis about her goals and expectations to address the issue of urban camping in Missoula.

A Room Full of Community Leaders Meet to Discuss Urban Camping

“There are so many people in our community that have been putting forward different solutions, including the city of Missoula staff, and so many different departments,” began Mayor Davis. “I think this is really an opportunity for us to have a conversation across a whole lot of different perspectives in the Missoula community, from neighborhoods to businesses, to people with lived experience, and folks that are in the social service provider network and basically dust off some ideas, make sure we're communicating things that we're currently doing. I'm hoping to come to a common understanding of what's going to be a good solution for Missoula going forward.”

Mayor Davis said the problem of homelessness needs a concerted effort by all in the community, Montana and throughout the country.

There Could be From Three to Five Sessions for the Work Group

“We are planning three to five sessions,” she said. “We know that we can't tackle this complex issue in one session. This is an opportunity for the City Council who are being asked to create a policy; some sort of regulatory response to this. This provides them the opportunity to learn here, sit on it come back here for some other experts in the field as we continue to have a few of these sessions with the goal that we will have a prepared response in the spring.”

Mayor Davis said the entire community has to work together to find a way to manage the urban camping issue.

Davis said the Plan if to Make Homelessness 'Rare, Brief and One Time Only'

“What we can do as a community is we can come up with a host of different solutions that help address homelessness and the issues surrounding it,” she said. “So, our plan here is in addition to obviously, long term community planning that we're doing, to come up with our next plan to address homelessness, is to make homelessness rare, brief and one time only.”

The 9th U.S. Circuit decision of Martin v Boise allowing urban camping will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, which stated ‘The justices agreed to hear an appeal from the city of Grants Pass, Oregon, of a 2022 U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that has the potential to loosen restrictions on how nine Western states deal with tent encampments on public property.’

There are two shelters in Missoula that are currently open to the homeless; the Poverello Center and the Johnson Street Emergency Shelter, however when the weather turns warmer, urban camping will continue in Missoula’s city parks and rights of way.

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Gallery Credit: Michelle Heart

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