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Weinberger: Evicted Sears Lane homeless ‘have a plan’

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 6:19 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Over two dozen homeless living in an encampment on city-owned land in Burlington’s South End are on their way out.

Early Tuesday, city officials began to enforce the mayor’s eviction order by removing some of the more permanent structures at the Sears Lane encampment. By nightfall, some tents and structures were still standing and a few people were on-site, but the city says everyone will soon be out and that all have a place to go.

“I would like to stay here. I don’t want to lose my little house. For me, this is my home,” said Sarino Macri, a Sears Lane resident.

The city let the encampment sit and grow for months. But this month Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said numerous safety issues, including illegal structures and arrests for drugs and guns, made the situation untenable.

A group of people gathered Tuesday morning in solidarity with the residents being removed. “I understand where some of the concerns for the city is, but a majority of the people here are very peaceful, very good people,” said Rik Lashway.

“The solution can be here, right here,” Macri said.

Over two dozen homeless living at the Sears Lane encampment in Burlington are on their way out.
Over two dozen homeless living at the Sears Lane encampment in Burlington are on their way out.(WCAX)

Jon Kirby is a neighbor of the encampment who supports the eviction.

Reporter Ike Bendavid: Do you Rally think this is the end?

John Kirby: No, I don’t think so, not for a minute even. If they do get them out of this area, it still doesn’t address the underlying issue of affordability.

Kirby says there have been issues in the nearby Lakeside neighborhood including stolen items and trespassing. “I’m glad to see it ending. I’m tired of the lawlessness that has been happening there,” he said. “That being said, it has to be a managed situation where it’s not just a law-free zone. That was a law-free zone.”

As the encampment is removed, Mayor Weinberger says everyone who lives in Sears Lane has a plan for housing as they leave. “Everyone has accepted the offer of help and is working to get to another place,” he said. The mayor says if people need an extra day or two that’s fine. “We are going to work with them.”

But to prevent the encampment from sprouting again, the mayor says a fence will be going up later this week. “We are going to be further securing the site and storing belongings in containers and giving them daytime access,” he said.

City officials say about 9 to12 of the residents will be set up with hotels. Two are being assisted in relocating to other states. A handful have requested campers that the city will provide.

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.

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