Burlington mayor extends eviction deadline for Sears Lane encampment

Following a police raid and two arrests, the people living at the Sears Lane homeless encampment have been given a week extension on their eviction.
Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 6:09 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 19, 2021 at 6:33 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Following a police raid and two arrests, residents of a homeless encampment in Burlington’s South End have been given a week extension on their eviction.

The decision to postpone the Sears Lane eviction was made by Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger during a City Council meeting Monday night. Weinberger also announced that the city will provide storage units and access to resources for those being forced out.

Following a police raid and two arrests, the people living at the Sears Lane homeless encampment have been given a week extension on their eviction.

Only three people who spoke during the two-hour public comment period were in favor of the evictions.

Despite providing the extension, Mayor Weinberger still cites lack of management as a problem, but also safety. “The very troubling and disturbing events of last week took place to points where it became very clear that the encampment has become unsafe for the residents that live there, the neighbors surrounding the site and even the medical staff responding to medical events at the site,” said Weinberger.

In the mayor’s announcement of the extension, he also says those facing eviction will be provided resources as well as storage containers to store belongings up to 30 days. The city says that support will come through DCF emergency funding for direct assistance to residents as they transition to alternative housing. Direct outreach will be done by the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, the Chittenden Homeless Alliance, and other nonprofits.

Those living in the encampment say they still see an opportunity to work something out with the city to keep the camp up longer. “We were very welcome to the idea of a nonprofit managing the camp. So look, just forget about this whole eviction thing and double down on getting some sort of plan together,” said Stephen Marshall, a Sears Lane resident.

But some community residents are standing firm that the encampment needs to move. “Children live around the encampment and also deserve to have a supportive and safe community. This does not include the sale of meth, the use and threat of guns, all of this happening within a thousand feet of an elementary school,” said Marissa Macdonald of Burlington.

City staff and community partners will meet with campers Thursday to discuss resource connections, explain the storage policy, and identify trash and abandoned items for removal. Then Friday, the Department of Public Works and Department of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront will be on site for the removal of items identified as trash or abandoned.

City Councilor Joe Magee, P-Ward 3, suggested a resolution urging the governor to step up the response to the housing crisis, but the council could not summon the two-thirds votes needed to add it to the agenda.

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