City shutting down Burlington homeless encampment

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 3:37 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The city of Burlington is shutting down the Sears Lane homeless encampment in the South End.

Police posted notices at the camp on Thursday giving residents until next Tuesday to move out of the city-owned property.

The order comes a day after police searched the encampment looking for drug activity. Wednesday night, first responders on the scene for a medical call said they had a gun pointed at them. Police later determined it was a pellet gun.

The announcement follows months of complaints from neighbors about unsanitary conditions, illegal structures, and criminal behavior at the camp. After allowing it to operate since this spring, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said in a statement that the confirmation of serious criminal activity and the hostile environment was the last straw.

“In attempting to generate new, needed housing the city’s intent was never to protect criminal activity. It is clear that the encampment at Sears Lane has become untenable and unacceptable,” Weinberger said.

City Councilor Joan Shannon, D-South, represents the section of the city where the camp sits. She says she’s glad it’s coming down. “As a community, I think we need to find better solutions. But as I said, the solutions can’t come from the city alone. This is not a city problem, this is a much larger problem,” she said.

Shannon said residents will be provided with resources for people that need housing, but that she does have concerns about where people will go next. Regardless of city resources, many at the camp have said they don’t want to be in a structured setting.

Local residents we spoke to said they approved of the city’s decision to dismantle the camp.

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