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Big cleanup underway at Burlington homeless camp

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 6:12 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A big cleanup at a homeless camp in Burlington is underway as part of an effort to allow the encampment to legally remain at the site.

I’m told through a fund from Chittenden Solid Waste, the city paid under $4,000 for crews to go in and clean. And it was a welcome sight for the folks who live there.

Garbage and debris were removed from the Sears Lane homeless encampment by hand tools and machinery Friday morning.

“I want to emphasize that the same residents that are here now are totally different than one year ago. One year ago, they had fires and other things happening here,” said John Melvin-Trigg, who is homeless.

Folks who live there now say they appreciate the city’s help after they had tried to clean it up themselves.

“To tell ya’ it’s great, to walk in and see the years and years of rubbish just taken away,” said Brooks, who is homeless.

Social worker Lacey Smith is the community affairs liaison for the city and says this cleanup is not indiscriminate.

If there is any question, we don’t take it. It just gets moved closer to the campsite,” Smith said.

This is a part of the mayor’s plan to enforce city policy for camping on public property by making sure the camp is compliant with health and safety regulations.

The mayor calls the cleanup an important and necessary step as the city braces for the possibility of even more people on the street.

“There are pressures coming out of this pandemic. The hotel programs that have housed people during the pandemic are coming to an end,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.

But the mayor says he plans to continue to work with those on the site to find safe and stable housing elsewhere.

“We have a team working on this looking at ways to help ensure this doesn’t become a public health or public safety hazard as some of these encampments have in the past,” Weinberger said.

After the cleanup, the encampment residents say they are getting ready for a fresh start.

“I plan to stay here for two solid years right over there between those trees,” Melvin-Trigg said.

“Do I like this lifestyle? No, but it’s all I have right now,” Brooks said.

Neighbors who I talked to off-camera have expressed their unhappiness with the camp. They worry about crime, drugs and the safety of kids who pass by there on the way to school. But for now, there is no plan to remove the encampment.

Related Stories:

Burlington officials tour homeless encampment to address trash issue

Weinberger says homeless camp trash ‘unacceptable’

City scrambles to find solution to growing Burlington homeless camp

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