On 10/13/2021, WCAX reported that a man was arrested at the Sears Lane encampment where approximately 30 people experiencing homelessness are living in shacks, cars and tents. This incident and story are now being used as the reason for a forced removal of the inhabitants of Sears Lane prior to a plan for their health and safety.
CVOEO has a Community Outreach, Resource and Advocacy (CORA) team that does outreach and delivers food daily to Sears Lane. Each time I have visited Sears Lane I have been welcomed, held conversations, talked about plans and have been invited into the living quarters of people staying there. I know the CORA team will also say that they have been welcomed, thanked and have felt safe at Sears Lane. That is why we are taking such an exception to the WCAX news story that mischaracterizes the community at Sears Lane and generalizes about the people who live there. History is a great instructor about what happens when a society generalizes and separates out people as the “other.”
To be clear, we know the mayor and City are in a difficult situation and up to now have showed patience and support. We also understand and empathize with neighbors in the area who are concerned about the encampment and find it untenable. We are not naïve about the encampment. We know that some people at Sears Lane are struggling with mental health and substance use conditions and we are not surprised that there is some criminal activity. However, you will also find drug use, mental health conditions and weapons right around the corner in the next suburb, and the one after that all across the United States. This is not so much an individual issue as a social issue in which we have been unable to provide affordable housing and emergency housing for people experiencing homelessness.
I would encourage us all to move away from the drama and hyperbole in the 10/13/21 WCAX story in order to focus on solutions.
Paul Dragon, Executive Director