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Urban campers in Bozeman adapting - and moving - as new law takes effect

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Posted at 11:29 AM, Dec 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-01 13:30:00-05

BOZEMAN — Urban campers in Bozeman are plotting their next move, literally. Ordinance 2147 has gone into effect and folks are adjusting to a new set of rules.

“I’ve been living in Montana for 45 years, and I’ve never had it like this,” said Timothy Bump.

Bump lives in a camper off Kimberwicke.

“All I have is my camper,” said Bump. “It’s not easy living like this.”

He says it’s tough trying to survive in Bozeman, but the enforcement of the ordinance requiring folks living like Bump to move their campers every 30 days just makes his situation harder.

“I don’t have anybody to help pull this thing anywhere,” said Bump.

Over on West Hemlock Street, campers used to be lined up bumper-to-bumper down the block. Now they’re all gone. In their place are little orange signs, a warning to urban campers that the area was to be vacated.

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The ordinance prohibits people from sleeping in trailers or RVs near homes, parks, schools, daycares, or within 100 feet of the entrance to a business.

Although the businesses on Hemlock Street may be happy to see their streets clean, the campers continue to struggle.

“We’re just being pushed further and further away,” said Bump. “I don’t know how I’ll pay for the fine we might get.”

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Timothy Bump

The ordinance also requires people to keep all their belongings inside their trailer or RV when not actively using them and allows city officials to issue fines of up to $25 after three warnings.

“We have not issued any citations yet,” said Assistant City Manager Chuck Winn.

Winn says they’d like to keep it that way.

In the last three days, city employees have been out in the urban encampments educating folks on the new rules. He says for the most part, people are compliant and helpful.

“But there are some people that just aren’t interested in following rules and we have to work with them in a different way,” said Winn.

The city is keeping track of campers or vehicles that have been in one place too long with a records management system.

They’re also placing yellow stickers on abandoned vehicles.

“We are making a difference in this community,” said Winn. “If you talk to a hundred different people, you’ll get a hundred different stories on why these people are there. It’s compelling. We’re trying to be compassionate.”

But Bump says the entire situation just makes him feel helpless.

“There’s no light at the end of the tunnel,” said Bump. “It’s just really sad.”