Vermont Business Magazine This morning, the Burlington Police Department enforced the trespass notice and removed six individuals who were camping at the Sears Lane encampment. City social workers were on site this morning to engage the individuals at the site, and the City and non-profit partners will continue to offer housing, food, and transportation assistance to these individuals. One person who refused to leave voluntarily and one person with multiple outstanding warrants were taken into custody. One protestor attempting to chain themselves to a Public Works vehicle was also taken into custody.
On October 14, the City began taking steps as outlined in our Sheltering on Public Lands Policy to notice campers to leave the site and remove possessions by October 19. On October 26, the City posted no trespass signs and established a fence on the perimeter of the site. Through multiple challenges, the Court has consistently reaffirmed the City’s ability to enforce this trespass notice.
Since October 14, the City, in partnership with CVOEO, has worked to find better housing options for everyone on site, including housing beyond the initial 30-day hotel vouchers. Former campers were also given time to remove and store their property. These efforts have resulted in over 30 individuals who were living at Sears Lane finding new housing supports, and the City is continuing to store belongings. Working with CVOEO and the State, the City has been successful at extending those supports through the State’s expanded General Assistance program.
Up until today, there continued to be a small number of individuals camping on site and continuing the dangerous use of propane, generators, and improperly vented stoves. The Department of Public Works and Parks Department are in the process of removing the illegal structures, generators, and fuel from the site so that the hazardous occupation does not recur.
Mayor Weinberger made the following statement:
“While this action was necessary to protect public health and safety, all that has happened over the course of 2021 at Sears Lane is a reflection of a systemic failure of our housing system and the efforts to end chronic homelessness. As a community and as a region, we must and we can find a better way. Next week, the Administration will be announcing a series of new housing initiatives with the hope that, by working together and with the community, the challenging and unfortunate events at Sears Lane ultimately lead to long-term progress towards housing truly being a human right for all.”