The ACLU of Vermont, along with cooperating attorneys Jared Carter and Gary Sarachan, has filed a class action complaint on behalf of Brian Croteau, Larry Priest, and other homeless Burlington residents, contesting "evictions" the city uses to displace homeless residents from camps established on public land, even though the residents have nowhere else to go.
Since at least 2014, the City of Burlington has used Vermont's no trespass statute to repeatedly threaten to arrest homeless residents and seize and destroy their property when they are found sleeping on public property, despite City officials acknowledging that local shelters are full.
Punishing individuals for sleeping in public when they have nowhere else to go violates the Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, and seizing and destroying personal property at encampments without due process violates the constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure and the guarantee of due process.
In December 2019, ACLU of Vermont client Brian Croteau Sr. reached a settlement with the City of Burlington in his federal lawsuit challenging the City’s policy of confiscating and destroying the property of homeless residents in violation of their constitutional rights. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Burlington agreed to policy changes that require it to advise individuals of the specific reason their sheltering site is being considered for removal, provide an opportunity to object to that removal, give adequate notice before taking property from sheltering sites, and store that property for at least 30 days. In addition, Burlington agreed to pay Mr. Croteau $25,000 and mediation costs to resolve the case.