Burlington in Pictures: Homelessness, trash, needles, graffiti spread

True North Reports traveled around Burlington late last month to take photos of the increasing squalor of the Queen City, which includes everything from homeless encampments and trash to graffiti and drug needles.

This image was taken just near Main Street and Church Street, a popular hang-out area known for its restaurants, shops and cafes. It shows evidence that people are sleeping in alleyways next to to bustling shops and eateries.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

SLEEPING IN STREETS: This site near Church and Main Street in downtown Burlington shows evidence of someone sleeping outside, where tourists and locals alike typically go for shopping, restaurants and bars.

Another picture depicts a store closure also on the block of both Church and Main Street. Businesses have been forced to hire private security in some cases in order to counter the increased crime downtown.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

CLOSING: A store closing sign near the corner of Church Street and Main Street in Burlington.

At City Hall Park, as seen in the photo below, about a dozen homeless people attended a couple of gatherings. One said that often churches and shelters will provide meals at points in the day, but not always. Another commented that he “steals everything” when he needs to eat. No one wished to be interviewed about their activities and situations.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

CITY HALL PARK: At City Hall Park, about a dozen homeless people gathered in different groups on a mid-Saturday afternoon.

In a discussion with homeless individuals at Battery Park, one said that homelessness needs more media attention, while another suggested media stories about the homeless were “annoying.”

Michael Bielawski/TNR

HOMELESS IN BATTERY PARK: Homeless people park their trash and belongings In Battery Park.

A fire at a homeless camp occurred in Burlington on May 12, but no one was injured. The remains could be seen from the road while driving south on North Avenue.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

A FIRE: One homeless encampment caught fire in early May.

In the next photo is more material leftover from that fire.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

LEFTOVERS: More items dumped in the woods.

There is a needle dispensary in the bathroom in City Hall Park. The sign says drug addicted individuals can deposit their used needles here in this bathroom.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

NEEDLES GO HERE: A disposal unit in the bathroom in City Hall Park for used syringes.

Graffiti is starting to show up more around town as homelessness escalates.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

GRAFFITI: This large showing of graffiti is located just a few blocks to the east of City Hall Park, close to Church Street.

Garbage can be seen in multiple areas where it appears that homeless persons have been staying.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

GARBAGE – Some garbage is tucked away near a building entrance within a few blocks of City Hall in Burlington.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

49 thoughts on “Burlington in Pictures: Homelessness, trash, needles, graffiti spread

  1. How many months did our legislative leadership have to plan for when the federal money stopped and the homeless would return to the streets. Did they plan ANYTHING? I remember reading that one of the super majority remarked that the homeless were “very resourceful people” It seems that Baruth and Krowinski did absolutely nothing but: pass a bill to almost double their salary and benefits, increase motor vehicle fees by 20%, and pass the unaffordable home heat bill, known as S5. Asked by Senator Sears if this would be a trial they said yes. They are already advertising to staff an agency to run S5. They lied.
    We paid for this kind of leadership. Great work Baruth and Krowinski !!

    • Not only did we pay for this leadership, a majority of Vermonters voted to install them in the first place. Go out in public in Vermont and realize that a MAJORITY of the people you see…on the road, in the supermarket, at the farmers markets…are delusional idiots. What has happened to the land of Calvin Coolidge and Ethan Allen?

  2. I believe that alot of people are homeless because they want to be. But some are not wanting to be out there. Because rents are so high, and no family to take them in, they are forced to sleep in the streets. They have no choice. So if we who are lucky enough and by God’s good grace have housing and food, why do we not stop complaining about these people and try to find help for them? Just remember, it could be you. God says to help the poor, the hungry the homeless.
    If you see a bunch together, bring them garbage cans and garbage bags and ask them nicely to pick up their trash while maybe offering them a meal. Some cities have shower trucks. Offer that to your homeless. Make them feel like people and not like animals and maybe they will stop acting like that. You have to offer solutions, not complaints. Remember, it could be you out there one day because you lost your job, and couldn’t afford to pay your rent or house payment, and no family to take you in. I know I have come awfully close to being there. And my kids have been there. So don’t scoff at what you are not willing to help fix. For Jesus lived in a tent and traveled too.

  3. I can’t believe what is happening to my once beautiful state of Vermont. It is way past time to fire the folks in Montpelier who continue to make ridiculous laws, find out who voted for what and vote them out if you don’t like what they voted for/on. Vermont has come to be known as the welfare state, druggie/drug state, and now the homeless state. We are only second per capita after California for homelessness! That is NOT something to be proud of! And now, on top of everything else, illegal migrants are coming our small state too, while we already have so many homeless. I come from a fourth generation of Vermonter’s, and I am going to have to move out of state in less than two weeks. Why? Because I have been trying and trying to get into low income housing, and they are letting these illegal migrants in ahead of this country’s own people,. United States citizens. Drugs are everywhere now, the streets aren’t even safe at night. And NO ONE does anything to clean it up. Ship the homeless to their families, I am sure that you would see a lot of them leaving the state.I actually hear people saying that they have moved here to Vermont because of its ‘laid back’ approach. It makes no common sense whatsoever that our veterans are forced to leave their homes for the illegal migrants, police aren’t going after the druggies, and homelessness is a HUGE problem. I just sold my property and leaving Vermont soon, and that is because we are allowing illegal migrants to have housing that should be for AMERICAN citizens, thus forcing Vermonter’s out of their own state. Shameful!

    • Hi Nancy……….I too am a multi-generation Vermonter. This is all preventable. We could learn from San Francisco and LA. Sorry to hear that you have to leave. Where are you going?

    • Yeah where else can one go? Born and raised in Vermont, and now I live in the Midwest. I’m hoping to get back to Vermont, but seeing the politics there, maybe Northern New Hampshire.

    • Well Nancy, I’ll tell you now as an unhoused individual, that everyone and I do mean EVERYONE is placed on a waiting list for housing. Noo e is being forced to leave their homes so the state can give them to migrants. Have u ever been homeless Nancy? Cuz let me tell you, it is absolutely soul crushing. Being all alone, having nowhere to go, nowhere to be. Aside from it being very difficult to keep a job or any sense of normalcy in your life the questions everyone asks and the way it makes one feel, it is the closest feeling to despair I could say I have ever felt. That said, a lot, not all but a lot of these people are drug addicts BECAUSE they are homeless not homeless because they are drug addicts. Let me tell you from personal experience that it is much easier being homeless while you’re high than when you’re sober. All of which you could never understand until you’ve been there. Noo e wants you anywhere you can’t stop moving and if you do find a place to just be for a moment it is either watched by a camera or a guard comes to show you away not caring you have no other place to go. Everyone e wants the ho else’s problem to just go away cuz we’re inconvenient. It has nothing to do with migrants. The police have their hands full and can’t really do much more. Now I will give it to you that crime and garbage and the like are out of control and that’s because there are a few maybe more than a few people who are disrespectful and act a fool. That’s not because they are on drugs or homeless it’s because they have been marginalized for so long and treated as if they are a burden and no one cares about them. So they don’t care about anything anymore. It’s not right and it’s not ok. The real problem here Nancy is that there is a lack of housing. An unprecedented housing shortage and the housing there is the landlords have sky rocketed the price of rent. Do you know what a studio/one bedroom apt cost in Burlington? 1100-1350 a month. If you want something done let’s start with holding landlords accountable for what they charge for rent or the fact that not everyone can get into housing because of their credit score, and you boast about selling your property..well
      I say go. If you’re not gonna be part of the solution then the least you can do is go and not be part of the problem. Anti migrant rhetoric and elitist thinking and backwards ways of going about solving problems are not what VT needs right now. You’ll be far better off in a place where only “real Americans” are and no one has any problems. Good luck finding that though. Vermont isn’t a special case. It’s like this all over the country. Open your eyes and your mind and your heart.

      • Sean, the part about migrants is that it increases the demand for housing. As you say, there is already not enough housing and it’s too expensive. Bringing in millions of migrants will make it harder for you and everyone else to get an apartment or house. It increases the demand, which drives up the price.

      • Don’t forget about the no cause eviction. There should be something done about that also along with rent control.

    • Nancy, I to plan on leaving Vt. Lived here all my life but I’m so said to say;
      I will NEVER tell anyone that I grew up here. I’m so ashamed of what has happened to Vermont once known for it’s beauty and great way of life. So So sad.

  4. One thing I thing all miss…..is how many of these homeless are from ot of state…translpnats? The majority of the “citizen” legislature if probably out of state transplants. Many drug dealers..all out of state. I never recall Burlington having any of these problems … I lived there n the late 70’s. But VT was run by Republicans back then…now it’s run by Progressives & Socialists. Hummm….BTV is exactly like Portland and San Fran…all run by Socialists, Dem Progressives.. So stop the bleeding heart of they can’t help addictions…and fous on what gov’t policies could do to help. The gov’t policy of giving free needles and State run needle disposal…only encourages the ravages of drug use…and causes so much attendant rampant crime. It is time for some “tough love” to clean this up…but “bleeding hearts” won’t allow…work farms…poor farms…get them clean, straight, sober and non criminal mind sets and get them a skill to be later employed. Tt is either that, or homeless camps with free needles and disposal….and all the crime that comes with it.

    • The “leadership” of Burlington has decided that accommodating the needs of the homeless and IV drug users is the solution to the problem and surprise, surprise, it had attracted them from miles around. I am sure that some surrounding communities that have NOT provided such accommodations have noticed a corresponding decrease in the problems. It’s not complicated.

    • When the police force was reduced, the news spread fast among the drug-dealing world. The message became Come to VT, there’s not enough police, there are lots of customers, and sure enough that’s what’s happened with the associated homelessness ect and all that that brings. At least some sanity has returned with the confirmation of a chief of police. I would like to know how long the Progressive members of the City Council have lived here and ask them to think about those of us who have spent our lives here and are witnessing this horrible decline. We need a police presence, period.

      • I totally agree. Same thing is happening in Montpelier. Montpelier is enabling most of what is happening. We have all witnessed the graffiti, the garbage, needles, fighting constantly. Most of the time I am nervous about coming home after dark. I have been verbally attacked by a homeless man, said he was going to f___ing kill me. I locked myself in my car. A neighbor who saw this had called the police. I was so scared I started crying and shocked that I couldn’t get my phone out of my purse. To this day I still survey the parking lot when I come home or I am looking outside before I leave the apartment building. Almost every day police are called, sometimes up to three times a day for overdoses or fighting among these people at my location, where I live. I have been trying to find another place to live. I can’t even enjoy my 5 yr old grandson coming to spend time with me outside anymore. There is constantly fighting , loud screaming,urinating publicly in front of anyone walking the bike path that goes pass my building. I have been approached by several times for cigarettes (I don’t smoke) and or money . Several neighbors also have had the same thing happen. Just last week a neighbor was confronted when he was walking home from the grocery store and threatened that he was going to be knifed because this person thought he was someone else. This is so completely wrong and out of control. I have spoken to some of the homeless people and they have come here from out of state. They have been told that they can get everything free such as shelter, free meals, nice clothes phones ect… I am retired now but still work. I raised two kids and kept a roof over their heads,fed them and provided them, by working and sometimes two jobs. I never got anything free. Just saying my 2 cents worth or maybe now 50 cents. The state is at fault for a lot this happening.

    • Hat`s off to you Jeffrey.. We all know the problem but the lack of legislative action just tells the freeloaders and criminal element that is ok to come to Vermont for all your needs or illegal activity.. How long and how big will it get? Just as long as our leadership/court system/allows

      it to continue….

  5. The photos appear to show the environmental impacts of climate change. The activists are falling short within their community. As you see, there is far too much utilizing of plastics in the discarded syringes, totes, milk crates, and other non-biodegradable items. I encourage climate and equity activists demand the State immediately descend upon this community, mandate environmently friendly best practices. They must comply in order to co-exist in their open air abodes. The homeless community must comply with the social climate contract – don’t they know the planet is dying? Their social credit scores must be addressed and corrected.

  6. There are plenty of jobs within walking distance….if they want to better themselves! I work 3 jobs to keep a roof over my head! I have had to struggle all my life! I don not feel sry for homeless people. I do what I have to do to survive…if they work in time things would get better for them!

    • EVERY business in Vermont has a help wanted sign up and none are paying less than $15/hour. If the alternative offered is to not enforce the laws against vagrancy, shoplifting and larceny from parked cars, we should not be surprised at how people see to their basic needs. The prevailing solution is to essentially force local businesses to provide their goods at no cost to certain “customers”. That is not a good long-term strategy for a city that relies on tourist traffic patronizing it’s shops and restaurants. Burlington has become Holyoke Mass thanks to misguided leftists on the City Council. Decent people now avoid the place, especially at night.

      • When we used to live in West Arlington back in the late 70’s, I met a social worker. She mentioned that the poor lived in Vermont because they wanted to be poor.

        That was kind of a stunning revelation coming from a social worker. It’s only gotten worse since then, following the same trajectory as California.

        This will not end well.

  7. Looks like b-town is turning into san francisco, all it needs is poop in the streets and the transformation will be complete. This is what far left and progressive run government does for your city and state. Burlington has been in a downward free fall since the park bench bum burnie was mayor. The progtrds won’t have to worry about how to defund the police once all the business move out.

  8. Addiction doesn’t just effect ppl who are low income or effect someone because they are stupid or lazy as someone mentioned above. Addiction can happen to anyone, the extremely wealthy, doctors, lawyers, Judges, teachers, mothers, father’s, someone’s sister or brother. More often than not addiction causes such suffering from homelessness to untreated mental illness. Addict’s are people just like you and myself, it could happen to anyone from anywhere, every walk of life. More ppl need to have sympathy for the homeless it’s not a choice it’s what they have to do. You never know anyone’s story so before shaming the homeless of whom are not all addicts and are already ashamed maybe suffer terrible mental illness, think of how you’d feel if you ended up in the same position. It’s not a desired lifestyle, these ppl need help, not to be put down or moved to another state. Whoever said that homeless drug addicts should be sent to Afghanistan or California you are disgusting and ruthless and so ignorant. I bet you couldn’t last one night homeless let alone suffer an addiction and have no home and probably no food or at least not enough. Kindness is what is needed the most and caring for Vermont’s people.

    • There is perhaps a middle ground we should be striving for. In Vermont, it’s very difficult to live a modest life. As much as we have compassion for people the laws in place make it impossible to get back on your feet once you’ve made some near catastrophic mistakes in your life.

      There is the carrot and the stick approach that perhaps gets the best results.

      We can’t just tolerate drug dealers coming into the state. We can’t make it socially acceptable to do drugs for a good time or for escaping and dealing with life’s struggles. When we say it’s ok to do drugs, and we clearly have done that in Vermont, we are telling the kids this is ok behavior. Small patterns develop into larger patterns and suddenly the bender you were on that weekend to blow off steam/have a good tone costs you your job on Monday. If your lucky you realize what is going on and make changes.

      Vermont has a serious, serious alcohol and drug problem, it’s legion.

      Not addressing the drug and alcohol problem along with the affordability problem doesn’t address the Vermont problems. We need an epic turn about in our educational system. We are promoting drug use, sexual promiscuity and envy as solutions to our problems. This is a tragic mistake, which will only foster depression, hopelessness and despair, which is what our youth are currently experiencing.

      We can do better, much better.

      • The solutions to our problems will not be found in Government policy. They will not be found in Washington leadership, be it Biden or Trump.

        The solutions to our anxiety, which is epidemic, the solutions to our loneliness, our hatred, our lake of compassion all lead to one place and only one place. They are not found in Mohammed, Ghandi, theocracies, corporateocracies for sure. There is only one way out of our hot mess known as humanity. Seek and you shall find, there is truth and love in this world, it’s not where most think it is.

      • No one seems to recognize the number of homeless who are military veterans. No one seems to admit that all the money paid to the State through DUI convictions over decades filled their coffers and we have more alcohol driven crimes than not. No one seems to admit that Shumlin stood at the podium declaring Vermont has a drug problem, committed millions to address it, and decades later it’s worse than it was then. All the non-profits, all the task forces, all the board and commissions, all the millions of taxpayer money spent and still being collected as the problem worsen every passing month. Do those who blame the homeless see the pattern or not? Where is the cosmic 2×4 when we need it so badly!

        • It is shameful that there are military veterans living on the street while hotels are used, at taxpayer expense specifically to house junkies, thieves and illegal aliens…
          Our military veterans have EARNED their benefits.

    • Vanessa, 20 years ago in Vermont there was justifiable sympathy for opioid addicts since many of them became that way though the use of legitimately-prescribed pain killers provided by over-sympathetic doctors. What doctor back then wanted to be known as the professional who wouldn’t provide sufficient pain medication for the high school athlete recovering from a knee injury? Now we restrict the legitimate prescribing of pain killers, which creates serious inconvenience for patients with legitimate needs. Most of today’s street junkies supporting their habits with criminal predation made a CONSCIOUS CHOICE to begin using opioids recreationally. Our current social policy has been to regard nicotine addicts as second class citizens who made a choice to indulge in a filthy, disgusting habit. They are told that if they want to use their drug of choice, to do so out back, behind the dumpster, in the rain. Whereas if your addiction of CHOICE is to illegal opioids, the taxpayers should provide you with clean needles, a safe place to shoot up with medical supervision, and if you step over the line, provide you with unlimited doses of antidote. The taxpayers are not unsympathetic, just weary of failed policies.

  9. As a recovering addict myself, people need help not criticism!! There needs to be more resources for these addicts especially after covid. People can change, I have 7 years clean from herion and Opiates. These are someone’s children, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers and so on.

  10. I’m going to bet that these photos won’t be showing up on any of Burlington’s tourist brochures…

  11. Burlington.. The Portland of the east. I just got back from visiting a family member who lives a bit outside of Portland OR. When driving around the outskirts of the city the tent cities are EVERYWHERE. Trash thrown all around, graffiti, drugs….the list goes on. This is what we get for electing woke Governors and politicians. When the hell will we learn!

  12. Can’t let California get too far ahead……we’ve got to increase our drug use, tent cities and homelessness to catch up with them.

    • The needle disposal really says volumes. Meanwhile at all our rest areas there are so many needles thrown on the ground it’s not safe to walk around in any of the woods. State workers clean up 5 gallon buckets worth of needles.

      Makes for hazardous green up day, for sure.

      China makes sure a flood of drugs come through Mexico, it’s part of their plan to weaken our country. Don’t think they forgot the opium wars…..

  13. Yes, Burlington is no longer the ” Queen City ” The beauty and admiration for the
    fortitude it once had is all gone………………….. Homeowners should be appalled !!

    But then again, this is what you get when you have ” progressives ” running the city,
    you voted these fools in….. you reap what you sow ……….. Wake up, people.

    Stay away from Burlington’s Downtown, maybe they’ll learn, slum city is being kind.

  14. Michael,

    One thing that I believe could be helpful is an in-depth article on the causes of homelessness. A recent VTDigger article focused on race and demographics, but did NOTHING to explain why this is happening. I know there will be many reasons, but I wonder if there are some common themes. Drugs are an obvious answer, but is it the PRIMARY reason? What is the story behind people who find themselves homeless because of drug addiction?

    I just feel like we are all wringing our hands at the tragety but haven’t a clue for what would really help folks get back on their feet.


    • You can’t help them get on their feet unless they want to do it themselves. They are all just a waste of life and should be shipped one way to either California or Afghanistan. By the way, learn how to spell.

    • “What is the story behind people who find themselves homeless because of drug addiction?” you ask?

      Well, for the most part, the story centers on their own stupidity and laziness coupled with the addiction. And our progressive liberal governments–local, state and national–aid and abet their lack of desire to change their situation. Greyhound therapy to California is a logical move…

      • Too many other places that DONT want to end up like Burlington have used Greyhound Therapy to send them to Burlington, where they are apparently welcomed with open arms. When you declare yourself a sanctuary for certain behaviors, dont be surprised when people show up to take advantage. Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George has by her failure to prosecute crimes publicly declared that the Burlington area will tolerate “alternate” forms of income such as aggressive panhandling, larceny from parked cars, car thefts and shoplifting. Even shoplifters who threaten store employees with knives are not prosecuted. We voted for this and should not be surprised by the result. We have to keep in mind though that the situation could be largely reversed in one election.

    • The price of rent! The price of food and gas ! These are a big factor of why ppl are going homeless, that and the wage ppl make here are so under what ppl should be making! Yes I get that landlords need to make money to fix the homes and businesses need to go up on price when economy is s! There needs to be a rent cap and starting wage needs to be more! It’s pretty bad that you can’t rent a 3 bedroom anymore for less then $2900 a month and you have to go through so much to even get into a place like credit check and background check! Like that right alone is stoping thousand of ppl from getting into a place because of there credit or a stupid mistake made! I have 6 kids and my wife and I both work we make good money and still struggle to buy food and to make sure our rent is paid! And it was an act of Congress just to move to the place we live in! Ppl want to help the homeless then stop the background checks and the credit scores! And you will see more ppl getting into homes faster and turning there lives around.

      • That would only work if the laws are changed for landlords to evict those that destroy the property or refuse to pay. Credit checks weed out the non-payers. Now just let someone rent a room in your house without checking them out. Would you? Do what you profess to see if it works. Our whole society in Vermont is sick from the policies coming from Montpelier. No one can blame the republicans or conservatives because they haven’t been in power for decades. This is what happens to blue states.

        • The moonbats in office have moved us away from being a merit-based society. Allowing scrutiny of one’s previous failures to pay bills is mean spirited.

  15. Should the continuation of this tragedy be read as evidence that the citizens of Burlington don’t care about their suffering neighbors or are they in a standoff with elected officials waiting for the government to “do something”? …that is someone else should fix this. Perhaps they are unwilling impose rules and make self-help demands on these folks? In any event, this will only change when the people of Burlington come together and act.

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