Missoula Aims to End Illegal Camping by Housing the Homeless

The city will no longer allow unsanctioned camping in alleys, parks and other public areas

By Associated Press

MISSOULA – The city of Missoula is creating an incident command team to end illegal camping and create safe, indoor housing for people experiencing homelessness while making sure public spaces remain safe and usable by everyone, Mayor John Engen and three Missoula County commissioners announced.

The county’s Office of Emergency Management will be looking for land where legal camps can be set up and for ways to house more people in motels or other indoor places, Engen said Tuesday.

“The challenge of unhoused residents in the city of Missoula and Missoula County has reached a critical point,” the mayor said.

He acknowledged that the city made a mistake a week ago when it ousted about 30 people from an island in the Clark Fork River without having another place set up for them to go, the Missoulian newspaper reported.

However, the city will no longer allow unsanctioned camping in alleys, parks and other public areas, Engen said.

Damage to infrastructure, the river and the environment caused by a homeless camp on the west side of the city will no longer be tolerated, the officials said.

“When people are camping illegally in the urban wild, they create a level of squalor and environmental degradation that is not tolerable, and they live in that squalor and they can’t move their own lives forward,” county Commissioner Josh Slotnick said. “If we want the environmental degradation to go away that comes from people living illegally in the urban wild, we have to get them in housing.”