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

Vosen referenced the large chain link fence that has enclosed the area in an attempt to encourage those living in the camp to find shelter elsewhere.

“Just recently this past summer we were able to get that fence installed as everybody can see driving around,” said Vosen. “We installed the fence a couple or three weeks ago and then we installed gates out there. We've got most of those gates locked up, but still have a couple that are open. We've got a very limited number of individuals that are still reluctant to leave the area.”

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

“MDT is working with the city and county law enforcement as well as the outreach groups to facilitate getting everyone moved out from under there,” he said. “I'm hopeful it's going to be complete any day now. So we're getting close. We do have a security firm that MDT has hired to patrol the area, not allowing any other individuals in there as we’re just working towards the final closure of the area.”

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He said multiple community agencies have partnered to make the transition out of the area run as smoothly as possible.

“So that's why we're relying on this partnership that we have with the city, the county, the Poverello Center, the Hope Outreach Mission, the HOT (Homeless Outreach Team), just relying on people that understand the challenges and the best way to help this be a positive result for everyone involved.”

Vosen reiterated the reasons why it’s important to vacate the residents from the Reserve Street Bridge camp.

“From a sanitary standpoint, you know it’s a difficult area for trash and waste,” he said. “The major component for MDT, where our biggest concern lies, is the protection of the infrastructure. We've had multiple fires in the area. Thankfully ‘knock-on-wood’, to this point we've not had any of those fires damage the bridge, but it has happened in other communities and we sure don't want it to happen here.”

The ‘authorized homeless camp’ not far from the Reserve Street Bridge near the Super Walmart is now open for occupancy. It features 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.

“This is a community issue that’s very challenging and it’s taken a community solution, and we’re almost there.”

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