Downtown Zip Trip Manager: FUMC Encampment Is ‘Dangerous’

At the June 14th Great Falls Planning Advisory Board/Zoning Commission members voted unanimously to recommend the denial of a conditional use permit submitted by the First United Methodist Church to operate an outdoor emergency homeless shelter on their property in downtown Great Falls.

At the meeting several local owners and managers representing downtown businesses in the FUMC neighborhood provided public comment on the impact of the ‘encampment’ on their businesses.

E-City Beat will be publishing some of their comments and thoughts, directly quoted, continuing today with Wes Bentley, manager of the downtown Zip Trip. The entirety of Mr. Bentley’s public comments can seen here, his remarks start at 00:48:00 of the video.

“Our parking lot is right across from where this is going down and I’m just gonna touch on a few things.

Our employees can’t even park in our lot anymore because of the people in the encampment over there vandalizing the cars, they’re spitting on the windows, they’re taking off license plates off of vehicles, I can’t send my employees over there without sending two at a time.

I have people that walk home walk to the job and walk home I now have to go provide them rides by one of my employees because we do not feel safe at 12 o’clock in the morning with one single employee walking by there because we’ve had to kick every single one of those people on that encampment off of our property for stealing or drinking, causing problems, harassing my employees, spitting in their faces…

This isn’t a houseless problem as he calls it. I’ve managed that downtown location since 2017 now and I would say that 75% of the people that he’s allowing on that property have been a problem downtown for five years.

They were recently kicked out of the Mission because of drinking and doing drugs which is what they now continue to do on that property.

They make it dangerous, they’ve attacked other workers from a business right behind us and I’m afraid they’re going to do that to me or one of my employees when we go down to work every day.

I have a family of four… I don’t wanna not go home to my family because of something that’s going on in this encampment that he’s (FUMC’s Rev.Wakeley) trying to allow.

I think that he has the right idea, but downtown isn’t the place for it and the way he’s handling it, it’s not appropriate.

There’s nothing being done about the drug use, the alcohol, the violence, prostitution, masturbating, urinating, I mean we can’t allow for that, we gotta do something about it.

It’s got to be somewhere else. We’re trying to make downtown a better place for businesses and really bring business to downtown, and this is not the right direction.”

Posted by Philip M. Faccenda

Philip M. Faccenda is an AIA award-winning architect and planner. He is the Editor-in-Chief of E-City Beat.

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