Judge denies injunction trying to stop evictions at Burlington homeless encampment

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 12:25 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2021 at 12:44 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A week after an eviction deadline at a homeless encampment in Burlington’s South End, police on Tuesday afternoon came in to remove the last of the residents.

The action came after a judge Tuesday ruled the city can legally close the Sears Lane encampment. Two camp residents had argued for an injunction, saying that the eviction violated the city’s Sheltering on Public Lands policy. But the judge says the campers were not aware the city had a policy, never sought permission to camp on the city property, and have no legal claim.

“I think for some folks it’s sad. For me, it’s just if they are going to take this place away -- what’s left -- for people who don’t have ways and means,” said Gina Johnson, a camp resident. She says she doesn’t want an apartment and prefers to live with minimal belongings. She said she planned to head to a hotel that has been paid for, and eventually to move into an RV trailer provided by the city.

The ACLU in a statement said they were disappointed by the ruling. “All Burlington residents should be treated with respect and compassion, and both the city and the state need to adequately fund and implement services that address housing insecurity, poverty, mental health concerns, and substance use disorders,” they said. “Rather than punishing, criminalizing, and violating the rights of those who can least afford it.”

After initially letting the encampment grow over the spring and summer, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger last month said numerous issues, including illegal structures and arrests for drugs and guns, made the situation unsafe.

The city last week put up a chain-link fence with a locked gate.

Related Stories:

City installs fence at Sears Lane encampment

Weinberger: Evicted Sears Lane homeless ‘have a plan’

Sears Lane encampment removal underway

Cleanup begins at Burlington homeless encampment

Mayor offers reprieve to Burlington encampment; Neighbor says eviction overdue

Burlington mayor extends eviction deadline for Sears Lane encampment

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

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