There was yet another online meeting via ZOOM on Thursday about the newly established Temporary Safe Outdoor Space (TSOS) located just off Highway South.

This meeting was sponsored by the Missoula County Commissioners as an official hearing with Commissioner Josh Slotnick and Chief Operating Officer Anne Hughes presiding.

Speaking for the TSOS were Susan Hay Patrick of the Missoula County United Way, along with Jim Hicks and April Seat of the Hope Rescue Mission.

A Missoula businessman, Bob McCue, owner of Eagle Mini-Storage located just across the river from the camp, asked why the organizers had not utilized part of the Missoula County Fairgrounds for the TSOS.

“Why couldn't we use the fairgrounds?” asked McCue. “The southern end of the fairgrounds where it's grassy, the roads are in? There's some infrastructure. You've got a couple of bus stops that are there. You have 30 to 40 acres of grass and roads, where the horse barns used to be; the horse barns for the race horsing folks.”

Jim Hicks with the Hope Rescue Mission explained why the Missoula County Fairgrounds were not an option.

“The fairgrounds was on our list,” said Hicks. “To be honest, I threw that list away of why it wasn't approved on many different levels. I don't know how far away we are from the school in Miller Creek, the Jeanette Rankin School. I would guess a mile maybe. But if we were at the fairgrounds, we would be in the back door of Russell Street (Elementary) School, and that would be a concern.”

McCue also spoke of the many times his business has been the focus of criminal activity from transients over the years, and his fear that the TSOS camp might exacerbate that activity.

Another caller, Andy Medford, expressed his frustration over how rapidly the TSOS was installed.

“It seems like you were presented with two options, and I think there's a third option on the table, and that is to say ‘no’ and disband the camp,” said Medford. “We're at a point now that we've let this ship sail we've broken the seal, we've gone down this road, ignoring my other concern of process, and now we treat it as existing or it's here and we're coming in and backfilling the regulatory process as we may, while we've ignored the public process.”

Another ZOOM meeting participant asked about the code of conduct agreement that each TSOS resident must agree to and sign, which April Seat from the Hope Rescue Mission addressed.

“What they're signing states no violence, no weapons, no substance use, and possession on site, no trading or selling substances. No theft, no fires, no guests due to COVID, and no disruptive behavior,” said Seat. “We do have a quiet time from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. No discriminatory or oppressive behavior, and uphold Good Neighbor guidelines.”

The entire conversation is available on the Missoula County website.


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