Montpelier postpones vote on homeless encampments in parks

The debate continues after the Montpelier City Council decides not to vote on whether to allow the homeless to camp in city parks.
Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 11:41 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 6:00 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - The debate continues after the Montpelier City Council decided Thursday to postpone a vote on whether to allow the homeless to camp in city parks.

During a nearly three-hour meeting, the council discussed a two-part proposed policy that assesses the needs of both the homeless and the city. It looks at where emergency sleeping would be located when there isn’t a spot in a local shelter. It also addresses what Montpelier park staff should do if they find someone sleeping in a location that isn’t approved, like school grounds, private property or near a public path. Officials say the goal is to protect the homeless but also add boundaries.

An "illegal" camper in Montpelier's Hubbard Park.
An "illegal" camper in Montpelier's Hubbard Park.(WCAX)

“If the shelters are open and there’s a place for someone to go, and they’re camping in a high sensitivity area, we would ask them to leave that area, so they can go to a shelter that’s more appropriate and safe,” said Montpelier Homelessness Task Force staff representative Cameron Niedermayer.

The council also heard from members of the community about their concerns regarding the proposal. Some of these criticisms included a feeling that there was a lack of clarity on public health and a need for an outlined description of the emergency sleepers’ rights.

The next meeting will be on Aug. 18. Until then, the Homelessness Task Force will be considering suggestions from the public and working with the parks commission to come to a decision.

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