Residents of Burlington encampment ask city for help with trash cleanup

BURLINGTON — Two years ago, Brooks, who asked to be identified only by his first name, was riding his bicycle when it broke. And when he stumbled upon an encampment on Sears Lane, off Pine Street, one of the guys living there fixed it for him.

Brooks has now been living at the encampment for the majority of the past two years. It’s about a one-square-block-sized plot, in between a parking lot and a small patch of woods in Burlington’s South End. 

“You know, it was just kind of like a weird lifestyle. It’s interesting. It’s like a hobo lifestyle,” he said. “I like being outside. I like being in a mixture of the city and the woods. I mean, what better than a little wooded area in the middle of the city?”

About 10 people live at the site, Brooks said, though that number has fluctuated over time. Some people living at the camp collect materials that they use for building shelters or fixing up motorbikes and go-karts. But there’s also trash at the site, and it just keeps building up.

Last month, Mayor Miro Weinberger called the trash buildup unacceptable. After WCAX reported a story about the site, the city sent down a crew to assess the situation. The crew plans to come back this week to help clean up the trash.

“It was all about how the mess is building up and building up, but he didn’t mention anything about how we all pitched in money out of our own pockets to get that dumpster,” Brooks said of Weinberger’s comments to WCAX. “Tell our mayor he’s a bunch of bullshit.”

Weinberger said Burlington has had problems with encampments for years, including the one at Sears Lane. But over the past few months, he said, there have been a significant amount of complaints about the site — enough to get the city’s attention.

“Encampments, often when they have sort of arisen around the city, I mean, we have numerous times seen them relatively quickly become problematic,” Weinberger said. “Unacceptable, dangerous public health and public safety situations can evolve.”

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