BTV setting up campers at North Beach Campground to protect homeless population during COVID-19 outbreak

Burlington’s efforts to protect the homeless population from COVID-19 will change the scenery on North Beach Campground for a while. 

Social distancing at the low-barrier homeless shelter on South Winooski Avenue in Burlington has become increasingly difficult, according to an email update from ANEW Place, the nonprofit that runs the facility. Now everyone remaining at the shelter can move to campers on the grounds. 

Mayor Miro Weinberger described the shelter as “not the right institution for this moment” in a daily update Wednesday, due to close quarters that could enable the spread of COVID-19.

The space, equipped with 27 campers, is opening Thursday, according to a daily update from Weinberger, during which he reflected on the impact this will have on the population. 

“If the virus had gotten into the facility, it would have very quickly spread to many people,” he said. “I also think it’s a sign of Burlington’s values and the state of Vermont’s values that we are moving quickly to make sure that everyone in this community is sheltered and protected and gets the support they need through this emergency.” 

He was onsite Thursday afternoon as preparations were underway for the campers, which he said could be necessary for weeks or months depending on how long the virus lasts. 

ANEW Place will provide services at the location, while the state is slated to pay a company that will provide the campers. There was a slight roadblock on opening day, as the state and camper company were still hashing out details of the contract. 

“I’m trying to get that ironed out and get the people moving in here tonight,” Weinberger told the Free Press at the site.

Other efforts underway, per Weinberger’s Wednesday update, include:

  • Expansion of the motel voucher program for vulnerable communities within the homeless population (such as those who are older or have underlying conditions).
  • Seeking a site for members of the homeless population who test positive for COVID-19 and need to isolate outside of the hospital (though Weinberger noted this need is not exclusive to the homeless population).  

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. Most develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. 

Contact Maleeha Syed at or 802-495-6595. Follow her on Twitter @MaleehaSyed89

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