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"What do we do?": Business owners feel stuck as encampments move closer to business

Urban Campers .jpg
Posted at 11:20 AM, Aug 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-09 15:41:45-04

Urban encampments on Bozeman's north side are something that residents consistently talk about online.

I spoke with businesses on the west side and east side of town where they feel like they are just as stuck.

“They're kind of hands in the air like, what do we do? It's all over Bozeman. Yes, it's by my business. It's also by that person's business. It's also by that person's business,” Cynthia Spratt said.

Cynthia and Scott Spratt both own businesses on Bozeman’s northeast side, and both say the increase in encampments around town is something that city leaders need to address.

“Whether it's overdue or not overdue, it's definitely time because it's a source that everybody talks about,” Scott Spratt said.

The Spratts say after one of their buildings was vandalized from the inside, they've made changes out of concern for their tenants and clients.

“We’ve had to adjust our hours for safety,” Cynthia Spratt said.

On Bozeman's west side, Dana Zurchin says her clients have also pointed out the encampments on their way to her business on Equestrian Lane.

“There is definitely yeah - been a rise in complaints from my clients I've had from my clients. And I actually, you know, I tell them maybe go around, there's other streets,” Zurchin said.

Zurchin has been at her location for three years but has noticed the increase mostly in the last year.

“I've noticed there's been major growth in the amount of campers that have been occupying the streets leading up to my business,” Zurchin said.

Zurchin and others in her building say their biggest concern is safety for their employees and clients.

“We are an all-female staff, and there have been some safety concerns related to that,” Marlene Sadaj said.

“They just don't maybe feel as safe. So yeah, that's definitely have had a rise in complaints,” Zurchin said.

Business owners say there isn’t a one size fits all solution to the homeless problem in Bozeman.

“Timing is right and possibly could have been a little sooner. However, I understand from the city's perspective on wanting to kind of stay a little bit of wait and see with all of the different lawsuits that have been going around the country,” Sadaj said.

“We're just glad a little ordinance may come along to help improve the situation, but it just seems like a small answer for a very large problem,” Cynthia Spratt said.

No action was taken by the City Commission on the proposed ordinance.