Cleanup begins at Burlington homeless encampment

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 12:22 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Clean-up started Friday at the homeless encampment off Sears Lane in Burlington.

Workers from the Department of Public Works as well as Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront were at the site with tractors and trash trucks to remove items identified as abandoned or trash.

The cleanup was planned by the city and they say they communicated to campers ahead of time, but not everyone got the message. “I didn’t know where my tent was. I have it up in the woods now but I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, did they bulldoze my tent or something.’ I was scared,” said Lucy, a Sears Lane resident.

Clean-up started Friday at the homeless encampment off Sears Lane in Burlington.
Clean-up started Friday at the homeless encampment off Sears Lane in Burlington.(WCAX)

The issues at Sears Lane came to a head last week when a raid uncovered illegal drugs and firearms. Lucy says her tent and belongings are all she has. “I spent last night in South Burlington outdoors in the very, very, very, very cold just because I’m afraid. I’m afraid to come back here. I’m afraid somebody is going to hurt me again or tear apart my stuff or steal stuff. It’s scary out here for a vulnerable female like me,” she said.

The Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, or CVOEO, is helping people like Lucy find more stable housing. She says they are putting her up in a hotel on Sunday and then helping her find an apartment. And CVOEO says she’s not the only one. Eleven more folks are scheduled to go to hotels next week.

There were also volunteers at the site helping with Friday’s cleanup. Former Sears Lane resident Brendan Brooks says he was helping out people he knows. He agrees that the encampment needs to go. “There’s good people, there’s bad people, and then there’s sloppy people. And they probably would still be here if they kept it clean and didn’t do all the riff-raff,” Brooks said.

Campers identified which sites are abandoned for city crews to remove. But some people say the city could have done carried it out more humanely. “I’m just concerned that the way that we are responding to this is going to cause more harm for people and we are trying to erase the problem from people’s perception but it doesn’t solve the problem, it just makes it worse,” said Rep. Brian Cina, P-Burlington.

The original deadline to move out was this past Tuesday but the mayor delayed it one week to give residents more time to come up with a plan. The city will store any belongings left on eviction day for one month.

Related Stories:

Mayor offers reprieve to Burlington encampment; Neighbor says eviction overdue

Burlington mayor extends eviction deadline for Sears Lane encampment

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