Weinberger says homeless camp trash ‘unacceptable’

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 6:23 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A homeless encampment continues to grow in Burlington’s South End. But while the mayor Thursday said the current trash situation is “not acceptable,” city policy appears to allow the camp to remain indefinitely.

For the second day in a row, residents of the Sears Lane encampment on Thursday were seen trying to clean up the area. They told us they want this to be a safe space for the homeless. “I’m trying to create a little community where homeless people can live in peace and quiet and show the world that we are not all degenerates because we don’t have stable housing. Some of us are just like them - decent people,” said one camp resident who goes by the name Israel.

Residents of the camp say they are working to clean up refuse in the area that they claim was left there from previous encampments.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger this week said there are no plans to remove the camp as has been done in other areas of the city. But in a statement Thursday, the mayor said he’s concerned about cleanliness. “The current site condition is not acceptable, and city departments are working with the residents to clean up the trash and abandoned items. I expect there will be regular follow-up with councilors and the public in the weeks ahead,” he said.

Neighbors say that with warmer weather on the way, the encampment is growing and they are concerned. They question if the encampment is illegal and whether the city should clear it out.

City policy says homeless camps are only cleared out if they are on public lands where camping is specifically prohibited, like city parks or the waterfront. The Sears Lane area does not appear to be on the prohibited list. The policy does require the city to reach out to residents and offer them services and the city has discretion over whether to close the camp for health, safety, or environmental reasons.

Weinberger so far has only said they are working to address the trash problem but has not addressed if he plans to invoke the health and safety option. Neither the mayor’s office nor the city council members representing that area responded to a request for comment.

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City scrambles to find solution to growing Burlington homeless camp

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