Montpelier greenlights homeless camping on city property

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 4:11 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Montpelier has given the greenlight to a new policy allowing the homeless to camp on city property.

“I think it’s brought homeless as an issue for our city to the floor and I think that’s really important,” Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson said.

The policy is in response to a court decision in Idaho that said people can’t be penalized for camping if they have nowhere else to go.

The final policy approved Wednesday includes new criteria on where people can camp; it can’t have an impact on a public right of way or have an adverse environmental impact.

A new task force is looking into the feasibility of creating new public restrooms, exploring the potential cost, locations and what amenities they should have.

City leaders say only a handful of people are camping right now but they say the number could rise next month when the 30-day extension of the general assistance program comes to an end.

And while the city finalizes camping policy, questions about homeless Vermonters spending time in public parks remain up in the air.

Montpelier is moving along with plans to move the Guertin Pocket Park to the heart of downtown.

Right now, it’s located behind the DMV next to Montpelier’s bike path on the Winooski River.

City officials say some feel uncomfortable with gatherings along the bike path.

People at the park I spoke with don’t want the city to move the park. They say it creates a safe space to gather.

City officials say if the park is moved and people gather elsewhere, they will still be serviced.

“We do have a peer support worker that we contract through another way that the city provides funds for that keeps track of people and tries to know where they’re camping and is a conduit to them,” Montpelier City Manager Bill Fraser said.

The city plans on moving the pocket park in a few weeks.

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