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Montpelier to allow camping on city property

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Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 10:42 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Montpelier is now officially allowing camping on city property as an emergency effort to deal with homelessness in the capital city.

The Montpelier City Council Wednesday unanimously approved a measure to decriminalize camping in city parks and other property as a short-term step to deal with the affordable housing crisis. Under the revised measure, people camping in “high-sensitivity areas” will be asked to move within 24 hours and be connected with overnight shelters. After 24 hours, those camps could be removed by the city.  

The decision comes after the U.S. Supreme Court last year upheld a ruling that people experiencing homelessness cannot be criminally punished for sleeping outside on public property if there are no available alternatives.

The council in July postponed action on the policy after hearing from community members including concerns about a lack of clarity on public health and a need for an outlined description of the emergency sleepers’ rights.

The pandemic has created a new urgency for long-existing affordable housing issues. Burlington is now hiring a manager to coordinate a growing encampment on city property in the South End.

Montpelier city officials in July estimated that upwards of 70 people were out on the streets experiencing homeless. They have stressed that the new policy isn’t a long-term solution and that there will be no tolerance for crime.

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