Where will South End encampment residents move?

Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 4:47 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Where will residents of a homeless encampment in Burlington’s South End end up after being forced out next week?

The city on Thursday gave residents of the Sears Lane encampment a deadline of 5 p.m. Tuesday to get off the city property. Officials say the order came after a police bust earlier in the week turned up drug activity and the arrest of a convicted felon possessing firearms. The city also cited public health issues including unsafe structures and the continuous running of generators.

A flyer distributed to residents offered community resources with a focus on housing and shelter options. Committee on Temporary Shelter officials say there are vacant beds in the city but probably not enough to accommodate everyone at Sears Lane. COTS runs a shelter and programming to help people get back on their feet by finding jobs and permanent housing. But officials with the nonprofit worry that with the looming eviction, combined with the approach of colder weather, help may not come fast enough.

“We know what the answer is to homelessness -- it’s housing and making a commitment to making that. We are going to put the resources in place to make sure that everybody has a place to stay that’s safe,” said COTS’ Rita Markley.

Officials with the Department for Children and Families, which runs the state’s homeless hotel program, say they are also working to help those who are displaced find shelter.

In a statement Friday, leaders of Burlington’s Progressive Party panned the Democratic mayor’s decision to close the camp, saying ”..it is unrealistic to think that disbanding the encampment without other housing resources in place will lead to greater public safety. In all likelihood, this action will shift these issues to another part of the city, without addressing the underlying conditions that got us here in the first place.”

The issue is expected to come before the city council at Monday night’s meeting.

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