Local government

Contrary Canaan bans homeless loitering

By Guy Page

Canaan, the little town in the corner pocket of the Northeast Kingdom where they say you can stand with one foot in Vermont, one foot in Quebec, and spit into New Hampshire, is flying solo again. 

In August, 2021, the Canaan school board voted 5-1 to not require Covid-19 masking in school. The State of Vermont’s ‘guidance’ to mask students was adopted by every public school district in Vermont – except Canaan. (The board did require masking on schoolbuses.)

Like most towns in the most rural county of Vermont, Canaan is small and growing smaller (pop. 896 in 2020, down about 10% from 2010). Her people earn less, live in less expensive homes, and are older than the average Vermonter. It boasts a border crossing, Lake Wallace, and the Village of Beecher Falls.

Last month, Contrary Canaan did it again. Where many Vermont municipalities are embracing the responsibility of providing basic services for the homeless, or at least doing nothing and hoping the State of Vermont solves the growing homeless problem (VT #2 in the nation per capita, after California), tiny Canaan passed a “Municipal Land Loitering and Encampment” ordinance August 22 “prohibiting excessive loitering.” 

The ordinance says no person shall:

  • “Sit, stand or loiter” on any public property, including streets, roads, public buildings and parks after being asked to leave.
  • Block roads or sidewalks or cause pedestrian or vehicular traffice to be impeded
  • Sit, stand or loiter between 10 PM and 5 PM on any public property.

Violators will be cited by police. 

The Vermont ACLU is opposing the measure, according to VTDigger. The ACLU has long been an opponent of anti-loitering municipal ordinances. In 2018 it led the successful charge to get six municipalities to overturn anti-panhandling ordinances. Last month, it decried the emergency of a petition in Brattleboro to reinstate the panhandling ban. 

Although Canaan does not have a homeless shelter – reportedly there are no permanent facilities anywhere in Essex County – it does have an Northeast Kingdom Community Action office, which provides counseling and services to people without housing. 

The extent of homeless loitering in Canaan is unclear. In 2021 – the last year the annual ‘count’ of Vermont’s homeless included a breakdown by county – Essex County had only four people listed as homeless. However, growing homeless numbers statewide, including in other small rural border towns like Bradford, show that the problem of indigent loitering is no longer an urban problem. 

A bill in the Vermont Legislature known as the Homeless Bill of Rights would, as written, strike down all municipal anti-loitering ordinances. H.132 is now in the House Committee on General and Housing. 

Categories: Local government

19 replies »

  1. Sounds like the folks here have the same spirit as the Canaanites who are spoken highly of in the New Testament, wine anyone?

  2. A quick read of the proposed homeless bill would seem to allow anyone claiming to be homeless to do whatever they want. Panhandling just the tip of the iceberg.

    • Exactly. I’ve been homeless twice. Didn’t panhandle, harass, etc. However, I’ve been harassed and even threatened by street people for not providing money.

  3. If the moonbats in the legislature want to pass an ordinance superseding all municipal anti-vagrancy laws, they should put their money where their mouth is.
    Oh, right, they already have, allocating huge sums of public money for people who, on the honor system, “claim” to not have a place to go and demand the taxpayers provide one. Progressive municipalities have also “tried to solve the homeless problem” by providing free housing with the result being that they also attracted more vagrants from beyond Vermont’s borders. Vermont’s “solutions” to the homeless crisis are the reason Vermont is second only to California, which has used the same failed strategies.

  4. Ridiculous, unnecessary, and redundant. (which could be said about most actions of the current legislature) The bill cites the Vermont Constitution’s existing Bill of Rights. We also have the United States Bill of Rights along with other anti discrimination laws and policies that are more than sufficient to protect the citizenry.

    All municipalities have or should have the right to enact ordinances restricting anyone’s irresponsible and/or nuisance behavior that infringes on the rights and liberty of others on town or public property.

    The VT bill is like a permissive parent encouraging their children to run amok.

    • Please provide your address, so the boxcars will know where to deliver the “new Americans” that you sarcastically pretend to care about…
      The DEMOCRAT mayor of New York is trying to send them upstate and the DEMOCRAT governor of New York (who is from upstate) says no way. They are both finally and correctly blaming the Biden administration but they are too late…Biden has already waved them in like a third base coach…

    • The box cars in Germany were to ship the victims in. We’ve had loitering and vagraney laws on the books for decades if not centuries.

  5. Bring a camera. Taking picture and video in public is a constitutional right and when someone asks “what business do you have here?”, taking photos is the business. It’s the first amendment, freedom of the press. Any American can be press, simply by claiming it so.

    • One more thing….
      You can’t be “trespassed” from public unless you’ve committed a crime.

  6. The ordinance says no person shall sit, stand or loiter on any public property, including streets, roads, public buildings and parks after being asked to leave, or sit, stand or loiter between 10 PM and 5 PM on any public property.
    Really? This looks like an ordinance drafted to provide for the payment of legal fees to any attorney wishing to taking the town to court.

    In 1999, the Supreme Court invalidated a loitering ordinance in City of
    Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41 (1999). The Court focused upon the
    unfettered discretion bestowed upon law enforcement officers by the ordinance in question.

    See also Gordon v. Schiro, 310 F. Supp. 884 (Federal District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, 1970 “It is beyond the reach of a penal ordinance to prohibit people from merely being on the streets `habitually’ or even at late `or unusual’ hours.” Gordon v. Schiro, 310 F. Supp. 884, at 887 (E.D. La. 1970).

  7. I was able to effectively resolve homeless encampments on my riverfront, commercial property in Windsor County. Absolutely no debating its long standing results. Tecumseh Sherman would be proud.

  8. Well it is out of nazi Germany’s, you will own nothing and be happy. Put on thy mask or we will crush you. Take the jab or we will fire you. Close your business because we say so. Send your children to our indoctrination camps. Don’t allow us to change your children’s sex and we will put you in prison. Yeah it is but not how you are thinking.