Transient Camp Cleanup Continues Under Reserve St. - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Transient Camp Cleanup Continues Under Reserve St.

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MISSOULA -

Missoula community leaders are still working to curb waste levels underneath the Reserve Street bridge, in the wake of a massive transient camp cleanup that took place over the summer.

The Montana Department of Transportation cleaned up years of trash and human waste under the bridge back in August.

However, transients have slowly returned to their old campsite, forcing community leaders to closely manage the area.

Allen Bercier has lived on an old mattress under the Reserve Street bridge for about a month.

"It ain't a good life."

With no access to clean water, a garbage disposal or a restroom, county officials say the makeshift campsite along the river creates serious human and environmental health problems.

Travis Ross, of the City-County Health Department, said MDT used $17,000 taxpayer dollars to clean up the floodplain in August.

Ross said, "We knew from the get-go that this was going to be a long term strategy for managing this site."

Since the cleanup, Ross said the health department has partnered with the Poverello Center's Homeless Outreach Team.

"They've been down there monthly, checking in with folks, letting them know that camping's not allowed," he said.

Outreach team members distribute food, water and information to the homeless community in Missoula.

"Trying to get them connected with services to find more appropriate housing," Ross explained.

Ross said the goal is to have volunteer groups pick up the area at least once a year to help manage waste levels.

"So that we don't have to worry about that washing downstream every year at high water," he said.

The area has been a hot spot for crime as well. Over the past several months, reports of rape and assault have surfaced in connection to transients living under the bridge.

Bercier said, "I've seen guys get beat up down here, I've seen them get pipe whipped."

Ross said the county is developing a plan for monthly law enforcement visits to the area, but it's unknown when that plan will be completed.

"You don't want this life for any youngster, or anybody else to come down here," Bercier added.

Some homeless people have lived under the Reserve Street bridge for as long as 10 years.

County health officials said they're also planning a transient camp cleanup of Jacob's Island in Missoula.

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