Reserve Street Bridge camp is not yet closed

On Friday, KGVO News reached out to Bob Vosen, Missoula District Administrator for the Montana Department of Transportation, for an update on the planned closure of the Reserve Street Bridge homeless camp.

Vosen referred to the large chain-link fence that sealed off the area in a bid to encourage those living in the camp to find shelter elsewhere.

“Just recently, last summer, we were able to put up this fence as anyone can see by car,” Vosen said. “We installed the fence a couple or three weeks ago and then we installed gates there. We have most of these doors locked, but there are still a few that are open. We have a very limited number of individuals who are still reluctant to leave the area.

Vosen said the Department of Transportation is working with local agencies to slowly but surely evict campers below the bridge.

“MDT is working with city and county law enforcement as well as outreach groups to make it easier for everyone to leave,” he said. “I hope it will be over any day now. So we are getting closer. We have a security company that MDT has hired to patrol the area, not allowing anyone else to enter as we are just working on closing the area permanently.

He said several community agencies have teamed up to make the transition out of the region as smooth as possible.

“That’s why we rely on this partnership that we have with the city, the county, the Poverello Center, the Hope Outreach Mission, the HOT (Homeless Outreach Team), simply relying on people who understand the challenges and the best way to make it a positive outcome for everyone involved.

Vosen reiterated the reasons why it is important to evacuate residents of the Reserve Street Bridge camp.

“From a health point of view, you know it’s a tough area for trash and litter,” he said. “The major component for MDT, where our greatest concern lies, is infrastructure protection. We have had several fires in the area. Fortunately knock on wood, so far none of these fires have damaged the bridge, but it has happened in other communities and we certainly don’t want that to happen here.

The “entitled homeless camp” not far from the Reserve Street Bridge near the Super Walmart is now open for occupancy. It offers structured campsites, portable toilets and 24/7 security for residents.

Vosen said he and the Department of Transportation deeply appreciate the partnership with the entire Missoula community to successfully close the Reserve Street homeless camp.

“It’s a community issue that’s very difficult and it took a community solution, and we’re almost there.”

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