Visitors to the Jacob’s Island Bark Park over the past week may have noticed the disappearance of a significant amount of litter. Two local transients, known simply as Brett and Doug, have taken credit for the cleanup. Their reason: It’s their home.
Brett and Doug, who have been homeless most of their lives, say they have been residing in the Bark Park for roughly a week since discovering an abandoned and littered campsite left behind by former islanders.
“[The campsite] has been here forever,” Doug says. “We were just sleeping [on the ground] by the river…but the weather was getting too bad.”
Their new shelter—built with stones, tarps and heavy logs—can comfortably sleep up to three or four people and contains carpeting. Since this is the place they now call home, the two men have made it their job to keep the park as clean as possible.
“Every day, we take out more trash than we bring in,” Brett says.
Rob Thomas, park superintendent with Missoula Parks and Rec, isn’t sure the duo deserves all of the credit. His staff is responsible for the cleanup of Missoula parks and patrols the area between three and five times per week. “I’m sure it was park staff that cleaned it up,” he says.
Missoula police, meanwhile, have no intention of removing the two men unless they hear of a problem.
“We get complaints of people camping all over the place,” says Lt. Scott Brodie of the Missoula Police Department. “If they are in a clear violation they might get a ticket or warning. It depends on what the ‘campsite’ looks like.”
Although the MPD obviously doesn’t condone camping in city limits, Brodie says it’s difficult for the department to address the issue.
“We don’t have a facility to place them in to meet their daily needs,” he says.
So far, no one has seemed to mind Brett and Doug’s presence. In fact, Doug reports a Missoula police officer recently told them “they keep a clean camp.”
“We don’t bother anybody,” says Doug. “We are just trying to live our lives.”