Amid homelessness disaster, Montpelier working to de-criminalize tenting on public land


Homelessness is more widespread in Montpelier than it used to be. As a countermeasure, the city council is examining an official policy to decriminalize camping on public land.

The proposed policy would set criteria for defining “highly sensitive” areas of public land. If city workers found a camp in these areas, they would ask everyone in the camp to move. Everyone in the camp would also be linked to available accommodation for free.

“It’s not something where we’re going to make a list and log in – ‘This is a highly sensitive area here on this meadow’ – it’s more of a criterion for the city staff,” Councilor Dan Richardson said. “From looking at this, I’ve come to the conclusion that his best role is to prioritize the city’s staff.”

“I think this is an important part (to fight homelessness), but it’s not enough; that’s fair, ”said Mayor Anne Watson. “So we’ll probably start again in September.”

It did so in response to a 2018 federal appeals court ruling that included the city of Boise, Idaho. The court ruled that cities cannot enforce anti-camping regulations if they do not have enough shelter for the homeless.