Last June I gave you A Look at Missoula’s Reserve Street Homeless Camp.
At the time, I was frustrated by the lack of stories in our local media about this camp, and the reasons why people chose to live in it. I also wanted to know how the spring flooding had affected the people living there.
Today I went down to the camp and took another look, mainly to see what’s changed and to try and get a handle on how many people are living there, exactly.
I have over a dozen images to share with you, with some commentary below each.
The most recent news story about the camp comes to us from KGVO News a month ago.
It’s a good story, and the city assured listeners that it’s not turning a “blind eye” to the camp.
But at the same time, you can’t make people change that don’t want to change.
I didn’t take images of the tents that had people outside, though I didn’t see many...just three or four. In fact, I only counted four people in the whole camp today.
I don’t know where the residents of the camp are at around noon on a Tuesday, but it’s not at the camp.
I did ask one older man how many people were there, but he ignored me as he rolled a cigarette and let the six or seven cats there mingle around him.
I also called out to Mel, the man I met last year and spoke to for a few minutes. He told me that up to 100 people were at the camp before the flooding, though that number had fallen to around 25 after.
His campsite was still there, and on top of a small hill so it’d be above the worst of the flooding...which is likely to come.
One thing I noticed was how ‘barricaded’ his campsite was.
You might remember last year that he had tiles down on the ground, and a generator and heaters and more.
Today he also has large, heavy plastic ‘fence-like’ dividers all around his camp so others cannot get in. I tried - I walked all the way around the thing and called his name out a few times. I’m sure he was there, as the radio was playing.
I figured he didn’t want to talk to anyone, and was probably barricading himself away from some of the more harsher elements in the camp, not just the weather. It could also be mental health issues.
The only other two people I called out to I did so from a distance, as they were huddling in their tent doorway with their backs to me. I thought they were smoking something, they way they were hunched over, and they just gave me dirty looks.
I wish I had more for you, but I don’t. The only other report that’s recent comes from the Missoula Current, back in October and it only has three images.
That article figured that 20 people were living there, and it also mentioned that 20 tons of shelters and other debris were removed back in 2017.
It’s a big job, and just 25 volunteers worked the 60 acres of land in and around the camp last year. I haven’t read any stories on the cleanup efforts this year so far. I know that people were out on Saturday cleaning up 15 miles of the river, but I haven’t seen a follow-up story.
I hope we hear more stories about this camp, the the reasons why people are living this way. After walking through the place today, I don’t think anyone would want to live that way unless they had serious problems with mental health and/or addiction.
I just don’t think people that lost their homes and are trying to work are living that way, but I could be wrong. Perhaps no one was there today because they all are at work.
It is possible, but I don’t think it’s likely. I think this is a larger problem in our community, and I hope we begin to discuss it more.