Two weeks after closure, Sears Lane remains occupied

Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 5:33 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Almost a month after the city ordered the closure of a homeless camp in Burlington’s South End, a group of people still living there say they have no intention of leaving.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there were over a dozen people inside the now-fenced Sears Lane encampment. They were supposed to be cleared out two weeks ago. Instead, activists were seen building new structures inside the encampment and people were also cleaning up the area. The front gate remains open and parts of the fence have been cut open to allow access.

The city acknowledges that up to four former campers have been clearing up and packing. They say all but one person has accepted services and found housing elsewhere. That individual is the same person who we saw point and airsoft gun at first responders. City officials say they are working with him to accept housing.

Gray Barreda, a Sears Lane resident, says their legal battle with the city isn’t over. “Here we are, almost a month later, and people are coming in and out and there are people still living here and this case is still open,” he said.

Barreda says that the structures being built are a sign of support and a continuation of the community. He called Sears Lane a sanctuary for those who have lived there.

Most people who left the encampment were offered hotel vouchers, though those only last for 28 days. City officials say the mayor sent a letter to DCF advocating for continued emergency funding to support housing services for former Sears Lane campers until at least April.

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