Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - For the past few years, the Reserve Street Working Group has been pushing the powers that be in Missoula city and county government to address issues specifically around what was formerly the iconic Reserve Street Bridge homeless camp.

I spoke with founder Kevin Davis recently about the efforts of his organization and the many volunteers who have lobbied to close the area, remove the campers and help remediate the river’s ecosystem.

Persistence Paid off for the Reserve Street Working Group

“And I'll have to attribute a lot of that (success) to just the numerous volunteers that have come to the table,” began Davis. “Folks that are normally standing in the background and waiting for things to be done were expecting our elected officials to get the work done, but the reality is I think our officials are overwhelmed with all that needs to be done so we citizens, a lot of us stepped up and helped bring awareness to necessary changes.”

Davis recalled the camp that truly defined the issue of homelessness with the rampant crime and even serious fires that occurred there over the years.

READ MORE: Reversing Restrictions on Homeless Camp Bans in Montana

The Camp Suffered from Crime and Damage to the Watershed

“I would only perhaps clarify the way you're describing that as more of a cleanup, just bringing awareness to the damage that was being done to the watershed,” he said. “Then there were the extremely unsafe and unsanitary conditions that existed prior to our cleanup efforts. At one time, I think it was the state's largest unauthorized encampment, and for decades, there was just rampant extreme crime and conditions there that we wouldn't want any of our neighbors to be subjected to.”

Persistence paid off for Davis and the Reserve Street Working Group to remove the camp and close off the area.

The Camp was Eventually Declared an 'Environmental Disaster'

“We were persistent, and it did bring more awareness and eventually to the degree of Missoula County last year declaring it an environmental disaster, which brought in quite a bit more resources to get more attention, equipment and manpower to that area. Because of those efforts it's been quite the accomplishment in terms of making it clean and safe for the public.”

There are Planned Tours of the Former Site on Earth Day

Davis said he has received permission and cooperation from the Montana Department of Transportation (the owners of the camp lands) to open the area for one day, Earth Day, for a tour of the former camp site.

“We are engaging with MDT (Montana Department of Transportation) for part of the Earth Day efforts to unlock the gates for us, which is a rare opportunity for the public to access that area,” he said. “We do want everyone to feel safe when that day and on other days when the public will have access.”

There are still locked chain link fences surrounding the former camp with private security in the area.

Inside Look at the New TSOS Shelters

The Temporary Safe Outdoor Space new hard-sided shelter facility officially opened on Thursday, January 5. The TSOS is just off West Broadway near the new Trinity affordable housing complex.

Gallery Credit: Nick Chrestenson

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