Sears Lane encampment removal underway

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 11:46 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2021 at 8:40 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Homeless campers are moving out of an encampment on city-owned land in Burlington’s South End.

Early Tuesday, city officials began to remove sections of the Sears Lane encampment with more permanent structures. A group of people gathered in solidarity with the residents being removed.

Two attempts to stop the eviction process on the city-owned property failed. A judge says the city can force the people out because of their no sheltering on public lands policy.

On Monday night, Burlington’s mayor continued to say it’s not safe and says they are working with the residents at the site to provide resources.

One of those resource sources is the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity or CVOEO. Executive Director Paul Dragon estimates there are roughly 20 to 30 people living at the encampment. Of those that have taken advantage of their support, 9 to12 of the folks will be set up with hotels. Two are being assisted in relocating to other states where they have ties. A handful have requested campers that CVOEO plans to purchase, and a few are still looking or have housing but need a little more time. Dragon estimates anywhere between 3 to 5 have not taken advantage of resources and don’t want to leave. He says it’s hard to connect with everyone, but maintains they will continue to offer the support.

“We recently have been handing out a flier for those that we can’t connect with that we can help with hotel rooms, we can help with travel, we can try to work on some other temporary plan, so I can’t say for 100% surety we have connected with every single person there, however, we have connected with most and we have supplied the information so they can connect with us if we haven’t seen them,” said Dragon.

At the Burlington Board of Finance meeting Monday, councilors approved almost $300,000 from the American Rescue Plan to help the city’s homeless population. The goal is to create a low-barrier day warming station at the VFW in Burlington. Funds will be used for public health supplies, security, as well as rent and staffing for six months.

$20,000 has also been requested to go to the Fletcher Free Library. That money would expand WiFi needs, outside electric outlets, and provide daytime storage bins for belongings.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger says the removal at Sears Lane is still happening, but they will continue to try to work with the community being removed. “Anyone that is still on site following 9 a.m. will be subject to sanctions or trespassing. That said, it remains the city’s goal and has been the cities goal to offer better housing options to those living at Sears Lane that wants assistance. On a case by case basis, the city may grant additional flexibility with those individuals working in good faith with the city or CVOEO or the city in other ways and who have a housing plan that requires some additional time,” said Weinberger.

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Protesters stand in solidarity with Burlington homeless encampment

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