Editor's note: This story was corrected in stating that the City Council tabled the proposal on Wednesday. Rather, it was held in committee.

Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Members of the Missoula City Council on Wednesday held one councilor's proposal to ban sweeps of homeless camps when weather conditions are deemed hazardous.

Council member Kristen Jordan said her goal was to “ensure that we put responsible public health and safety measures in place when winter weather is still a concern.”

She described hazardous weather primarily as temperatures below 32 degrees or summer temperatures over 100 degrees.

“Removing camp sites when temperatures are below 32 degrees lowers life expectancy, forcing the relocation of vulnerable populations,” Jordan said. “This risk is greatly amplified without access to shelter.”

The city has spent millions of dollars on homeless issues in recent years, including a second year-round shelter on Johnson Street. In funding the shelter, both city and county officials said it would enable them to legally enforce urban camping policies.

Still, some continue to camp on public property and the city has at times “swept” certain camps when public health and safety issues are a concern. Jordan said those sweeps shouldn't take place under certain conditions.

“Having been to sweeps, I've observed the forced removal of people and the disposal of private property with my own eyes,” Jordan said. “I would argue that these sweeps are intended to move people and to solely clean a space.”

Despite Jordan's concerns, the measure brought on Wednesday didn't come in a form that some felt was needed to debate a proposed change to city ordinance. It didn't include specific language and, some felt, it represented an attempt to jump ahead of the mayor's working group, which has been charged to explore solutions to urban camping and he issues it brings.

“I'm concerned that this is a specific piece of policy when we're having very constructive (working) group meetings that we all agreed to the guiding principles of,” said council member Gwen Jones. “We should let that process unfold and it should be collaborative and based on trust. I feel like we're putting the cart before the horse.”

In a statement, Mayor Andrea Davis said she agreed with the principles of Jordan's concerns in that camp sweeps should be avoided during weather conditions that cause additional hardships.

But she also urged the City Council's Public Safety, Health and Operations Committee to not advance Jordan's measure until her working group devises its own recommendations. Davis said she'd rather have policies on the issue crafted by a diverse public working group rather than unilateral action by City Council.

“I do not support the mechanism being presented in an order or resolution,” Davis said. “We are all participating in an urban camping work group with the intent of developing actionable policy recommendations for the council to consider.”

Members of the committee voted to hold the item until a future date.