ACLU calls Sears Lane eviction ‘cruel,’ violation of city agreement

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 5:38 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The residents of a homeless encampment in Burlington’s South End have less than 24 hours to leave the encampment or be evicted from the city property.

The city of Burlington notified residents of the Sears Lane encampment last week shortly after police say they found drugs during a search and arrested a convicted felon for gun violations. But as of Monday afternoon, it appeared that few, if any residents had left.

The ACLU Monday called the short notice eviction “cruel,” adding that it violates the terms of a settlement agreement the city entered into just two years ago that protects the due process of local residents experiencing homelessness. “In this instance, we see no grounds for the emergency removal or the collective punishment of these members of our community. Through its actions this week, the city appears to be in violation of both the letter and the spirit of the agreement.” the ACLU’s Jay Diaz said in a statement.

In the letter posted last week at the encampment, the city says they attempted to work within the policy, including working with camp residents to clean up trash and providing portable toilets. More recently, the mayor sought bids from an organization to help manage the site. But now the mayor says the encampment has become unsafe for campers and surrounding neighbors.

The Burlington City Council is expected to address the situation at their meeting Monday night.

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