Burlington, VT– With the end of pandemic-era housing assistance looming, some Burlington City Council members want to allow unhoused people to camp in areas where it was previously prohibited.
Progressive Councilor Joe Magee is pushing to expand the city’s rules to allow camping more parks and public spaces before the state’s hotel voucher program ends June 30.
“So many folks who are unsheltered, who are experiencing homelessness, are forced to make that impossible decision to sleep outside, and our current city ordinance doesn’t really reflect that reality,” says Magee. “We made the attempt to really try to make it more clear for folks, if they have to make the decision to sleep outside, where in the city they can do that.”
Magee said changing the ordinance is not a solution, but reflects a harsh reality. One Burlington emergency shelter, ANEW Place, is looking for new partners to stay afloat.
“It’s certainly not going to be easy, and camping is not a solution to the housing crisis,” he said. “But it is how many folks find a little bit of stability, a little bit of shelter out of the elements.”
Mayor Miro Weinberger wants the council to consider other options, including adding emergency shelter capacity and “dramatically expand: permanent housing.”
“Because homelessness more than anything else is a housing problem,” he said.
“They’re not really offering a solution, to make that change in the rules without infrastructure, without support, without making sure the city has the capacity to really work with people who would camp in these public areas and manage these spaces,” he said.
Magee notes that no decisions have been reached, but the council is working with the Parks and Recreation Department and the Community Development and Neighborhood Revitalization Committee to come up with a proposal by the May 15 council meeting.