Burlington settles suit by homeless man for $25,000, agrees to policy changes

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Homeless Numbers Drop in Burlington

The ACLU of Vermont says it has reached a settlement with the city of Burlington on behalf of a homeless man whose encampment was dismantled and personal property confiscated by police.

It’s the third settlement the ACLU and Burlington have reached over the city’s handling of the homeless, low-income and indigent populations. As in the previous cases, the city has agreed to make changes to its policies.

“With this settlement, some of Burlington’s most marginalized residents are protected from having their personal property seized and destroyed without due process—including life-sustaining possessions like tents, sleeping bags, medications, food, and clothing,” said ACLU of Vermont Staff Attorney Lia Ernst .

The ACLU said the settlement requires the city change its policies to include giving adequate notice before removing property from sheltering sites and to store the confiscated belongings for at least 30 days.

The ACLU sued Burlington in October 2017 on behalf of Brian Croteau, Sr., after several reports that police were evicting people living in tents and homeless encampments and destroying their personal property.

“Punishing individuals for sleeping in public when they have nowhere else to go violates the U.S. Constitution and goes against Burlington’s values that all residents be treated with respect and compassion,” said ACLU cooperating counsel Jared Carter,a professor at Vermont Law School.

The city has reached settlement with the ACLU on two related cases. In 2018, the city agreed to pay $30,000 to a man for allegedly pressuring landlords to evict low-income tenants for calling police “too frequently.”

Earlier this year, the city settled an ACLU-filed case with Jason Ploof over an ordinance that barred individuals from visiting City Hall Park if they had committed prior offenses there.

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