All residents of the Sears Lane encampment have agreed to find another place to live, said a spokesperson for Mayor Miro Weinberger, who had ordered the site be vacated by 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Housing advocates and residents say they were anticipating police enforcement of the deadline, but no officers were seen at the site.
“Folks from the community, concerned citizens and activists showed up here early and to show solidarity to residents of this encampment,” said Ali Jarfari, an advocate for the residents.
Weinberger’s spokesperson Samantha Sheehan says as long as residents worked “in good faith” with the city to find a new home they would be given more time.
“Everyone on site at Sears Lane has a housing plan,” Sheehan said. “Some of those folks have already left, gotten into hotel or relocated.”
Paul Dragon, executive director of the Champlain Valley Office for Economic Opportunity, says 16 to 20 people will go to hotels or other safe places. Three people have asked to live in campers, which CVOEO plans to fund, he said.
“Nothing is as safe and secure as permanent housing so I think the onus is on the city, the state – all of us – to ensure that we can get permanent housing for people because its not only for folks here at the encampment. We have 3500 to 4,000 people experiencing homelessness, including 400 families,” Dragon said.
Maiah Steinman said she lived at the site with her boyfriend for a month before moving into a Colchester hotel Tuesday, with CVOEO’s assistance.
“I think they have been super helpful. Pretty much they said they were going to get us a hotel, I gave them my ID and that was it,” said Steinman. “We just found out that we’re having a baby so an apartment would be ideal.”
To show their support for the Sears Lane residents, community members and housing advocates gathered for a barbeque Tuesday afternoon.
The city plans to erect a fence around the encampment by the end of the day Thursday to residents belongings that can’t fit in storage. Access to the site will require permission from the city.