Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) The Missoula City Council on Monday night postponed a vote that would change city code regarding overnight camping in public places.

Council member Stacie Anderson said the measure needed more time and will now be considered in December.

“We're trying to work with service providers, the parks department and code compliance, and the City Attorney's Office and the ACLU wanted to provide some language feedback,” Anderson told the Missoula Current. “Getting all of that input in and back around to everyone is a lot of rounds of input.”

The delay marks the second time the measure has been postponed. It was initially set for consideration on Nov. 13 to allow more time to solidify a companion ordinance. That companion piece is set for a hearing on Dec. 11.

Overnight camping in city parks and public places became an issue in the spring when the Johnson Street shelter closed for the season. Without having enough shelter space, the city said it was unable to enforce rules on camping due to a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court.

But in June, and after public frustration grew, the City Council passed an emergency ordinance stating that not all city lands were closed to overnight camping – a move intended to allow enforcement of camping in parks.

At the same time, the city was working to open the Johnson Street shelter on a year-round basis. That shelter opened in September, positioning the city to enforce urban camping if it choses to do so.

“We're trying to land in a place that is legal, enforceable and acceptable to service providers,” said Anderson. “Hopefully we can thread that needle.”