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Bozeman official describes urban camping patrol, enforcement since new ordinance

“We’re looking at somewhere around 150 to 250 people that are out camping.”
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Posted at 8:51 AM, May 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-01 10:53:53-04

BOZEMAN — Ordinance 2147, which puts limitations on urban camping in Bozeman, went into effect late last year. How is it being enforced?

“We’re looking at somewhere around 150 to 250 people that are out camping,” Benjamin Bailey said.

Bailey is the Neighborhood Services and Code Compliance program manager who has been enforcing the urban camping ordinance since it went into effect. He tells me the ordinance applies three restrictions on urban camping.

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“Time is 30 days. They have to move to a different named street every 30 days. And that's after they receive 3 warnings,” said Bailey.

The other restrictions are place and manner. An urban camper cannot be within 100 feet of a business, or immediately adjacent to a residence, school, or park. They’re also required to keep their spaces in an orderly manner, which means no debris lying around. And they’re only allowed a generator, bicycle, and grill for cooking.

This is what Bailey and two other neighborhood service patrollers are out checking every day.

“We’ve given hundreds of warnings and multiple citations since I've been here,” Bailey said.

But what happens to these urban campers when they ignore their warnings and citations?

“We put a sticker on their camper saying you have 24 hours to vacate, or we’ll make it happen,” said Bailey.

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When asked if they’ve ever had to tow a camper, Bailey responded: “We’ve had to tow multiple campers before, whether they’re abandoned or in the wrong place.”

Bailey said that although some urban campers can be difficult, most are willing to follow the ordinance. Out on the street, Bailey said he tries to create relationships with urban campers so they don't only see him as an authority figure.

“A lot of them have my work cell number and they’ll text me. I got invited to a one-year-old’s birthday party last week. And that stuff, you put in that time and effort to get to know the people experiencing houselessness,” said Bailey.

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