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Bozeman city leaders asked to enforce urban camping laws or step down

Tourism businesses submitted a letter to city commission with their recommendation
Posted at 10:14 AM, Oct 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-11 12:20:33-04

BOZEMAN - The Bozeman District of the Gallatin Valley Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) says that if the city commission, city manager, and city attorney refuse to enforce current laws to limit urban camping, those politicians should resign.

TBID has previously committed $1 million to build a new shelter that would be open 24/7, 365 days a year.

The TBID board says the city's elected officials are failing to protect the health and safety of Bozeman residents. The board says the city has laws in place to address parking and camping-related issues and opposes any new ordinance.

In a letter to the city, TBID CEO Daryl Schliem says current laws that need to be enforced include drug use in public, public intoxication, public urination, theft of electricity and water from private businesses, littering, disorderly conduct, trespassing on private property, and more.

"If we don't have leaders that are willing to take that stand to protect which cities, normally the number one thing there are is public health, public safety for the citizens that live there," says Schliem, "if they're not willing to step forward and to make the hard vote, which is very hard to do because the situation isn't an easy thing to deal with, then we need proper leadership that would be in place to make those hard decisions to protect the safety of the citizens of Bozeman, Montana."

The letter was submitted to the city on Tuesday, Oct. 10. In a separate letter, the Chamber of Commerce voted to also enforce those same laws. If those laws do not ensure public safety, the Chamber is asking that the city adopt the original ordinance that limits urban camping to 5 days in one place.

MTN News reached out to Deputy Mayor Terry Cunningham, who says:

The City Commission is actively addressing the public safety issues associated with the urban camping phenomenon. We have funded and are hiring two Neighborhood Service Officers who will be solely focused on the local encampments. We are in the process of creating an ordinance that clarifies the responsibilities of anyone occupying the public right of way, and we remain committed to enforcing the public safety laws on our books. The commission is also addressing, in collaboration with community partners, the root causes of homelessness, including generating additional housing supply, bolstering our community’s mental health and crisis response resources, developing “housing first” solutions and fast-tracking a 24/7/365 shelter to transition those experiencing homelessness to a permanent housing situation. This is a complex problem with no easy solutions. We are committed to doing the hard work necessary to transition urban campers to reliable housing alternatives in a manner that respects everyone’s dignity while also protecting public health and safety.

You can read the Chamber of Commerce's letter to the City of Bozeman here: