Effort underway to help North Beach homeless after stay-at-home order ends

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The city of Burlington says two dozen homeless people housed in campers at the North Beach Campground will likely remain for the duration of the stay-at-home order.

Twenty-five homeless people, guests of Burlington's Low Barrier Shelter, have been staying in campers at North Beach Campground since late March.

"It's just nice to be in a space where they're not packed in like sardines in a basement facility in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis," said Kevin Pounds with Anew Place.

The city is providing the site, the state is funding the campers and Anew Place is providing services like food and wellness checks.

City leaders acknowledge it was impossible for their guests to self-isolate in that group setting.

"It's untenable to have a stay-at-home order in place and have a group that can't be housed safely," said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.

The group has a place to call their own until at least May 15, when Gov. Phil Scott's emergency order is lifted. That's also when the contract between the state and the RV company renting out the campers ends, and the city plans to reopen the campground to the public.

The big question now is where will the homeless living in the campers go next? The city, state and Anew Place are working on a permanent site for them, since homelessness exists beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

"Some of those factors are actually things we can tackle and provide more housing," Pounds said. "Those are doable things and I think sometimes a crisis like this brings it to the surface."

Sarah Phillips with the Department for Children and Families says the state is renting the trailers for $1,000 each per week.

"We have incredible community organizations that we partner with to provide emergency shelter and services around the state. They do the hard work every day of the year to help every Vermonter have a safe, warm and welcoming place to sleep and to find a stable home," Phillips said in an email.