A free clothes bin is causing animosity among Burlington businesses | Popgen Tech
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – A free clothes bin in Burlington is causing conflict between downtown neighbors.
For years, the Battery Street Jeans free clothes bin on College Street has been a haven for people looking for more clothes to pile on more layers. But with increased violence and trouble outside the store, some neighbors are pushing back.
Lisa Little is homeless and says the free clothes box is a huge resource for her to get new clothes and feel supported. “To have something like this and this opportunity for people to reach out and show that they care and provide these services for people like me and many others like me. It’s great to be able to feel good and be clean,” Little said.
The thrift store is full of second-hand clothes and other goods that attract bargain shoppers, but they also put clothes in a free-for-all dumpster. “People don’t have a lot of options, and the best option is to buy warm clothes, go out and find a place to dress up, get warm,” said Stuart Sporka, the store’s owner.
The dumpster has been near the store for six years, but recently became the subject of a dispute between Sporco and a group of other businesses who signed a letter opposing the way the dumpster is managed. They initially complained that it was dirty, but now that Burlington is having safety issues, they say people using the dumpsters are also behaving badly.
“It has nothing to do with the idea of what the container is and helping people in need, but more to do with how it’s done,” said Andrew Juhasz, owner of Imperial Barber Company. He is a recovering drug addict himself, and while he believes in helping people, he also cares about safety. He says his staff have encountered problems with people struggling and agitated outside the store. “I don’t know if a free dumpster on a public sidewalk is an adequate way to offer help.”
“I agree that some of the ways people behaved were unnecessary and inappropriate, but I’m reacting to it and I don’t see why I have to take all the responsibility for it,” Sporco said. He says he has already made many compromises, such as bringing a trash can when the business is closed and asking people to leave if they are unruly.
The matter is now before Burlington City Council’s Licensing Committee and the store may be required to obtain an encumbrance permit. City officials say they are working on a compromise that would allow the dumpster to stay while addressing neighbors’ concerns.
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