BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Burlington City Council Tuesday night voted 10-1 on a resolution calling the current state of drug and homelessness problems downtown a public health crisis.
The resolution includes adding the issue to every City Council meeting agenda and holding public information sessions about what the city is doing to fight the crisis. It also asks the state Legislature to make it more of a priority, as well.
During the meeting, Burlington business owners, families, and students all brought their concerns to the city. They say they are scared and don’t feel safe in the Burlington area anymore. Some say the downtown area is dying.
“I am nervous now, I am scared now. It makes me extremely nervous to walk to work. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, I’m tired of being scared,” said one resident.
”It pains me to see the current state of Burlington. Downtown is dying, some families don’t feel comfortable walking around, violence is up and there are multiple overdoses daily,” said another resident.
Families also spoke about the issues with their kids. “The conversations that I have with my 8-year-old daughter on our walk to school are conversations about how do we solve this problem? How do we care for these people and how do we keep each other safe?” one resident said.
People in recovery shared their stories. “Harm reduction will only lead to more overdoses. Change comes from discomfort. I didn’t ask for help until I was arrested and was facing a lengthy prison sentence, and my friends and family were no longer willing to help,” one said.
“I never would’ve chosen to get sober... I think we need more than one answer,” said another.
“We want acknowledgment of the suffering from our leaders, and we want to hear you say it’s a crisis,” one person said.
The Burlington Police Department Drug Unit presented the work they are doing to help with the issue. They say they are mainly targeting people who supply the drugs, not the people who are using them in the streets. As for data, they released the number of drug arrests for fentanyl and meth.
Police do not usually arrest people for low-level drugs. They say they do want to increase street crime units and increase staffing to help address some public safety concerns.
Copyright 2023 WCAX. All rights reserved.