Kurt Daims with two of the RVs on his property in February 2023.
Jeff Potter/Commons file photo
Kurt Daims with two of the RVs on his property in February 2023.

No good deed goes unpunished

The town of Brattleboro should drop its cruel lawsuit against Kurt Daims, who could lose his land and home for the crime of helping to shelter people who had none

Klara Charlton describes herself as an "artist, writer, activist, naturalist, and unabashed tree hugger."

People who know me here in Brattleboro, know that I work a lot, and I work hard.

For many years, I lived under the worries and pressure of struggling to make ends meet as a single mom without a safety net. Now that my daughter is grown, I do so because of the many worries that go along with the terrible economic situation in this town and in this nation.

Most rents here in Brattleboro and elsewhere are unlivable for many, and they cater to people who work remotely at high-end jobs in a city somewhere else. (High rents are partly due to greed in the banking and lending industry, but that's another story.)

People who have lived here for decades have been forced to move away due to impossible rents. Fires keep destroying beautiful old houses and buildings, rendering even more people displaced, leaving us with fewer available units.

Businesses fail and are not replaced, because online shopping has killed storefronts. Dilapidated buildings are allowed to stand for decades - some even with fallen trees resting on them.

Homelessness is rampant here and throughout this country (a 12% increase in 2023, almost a million souls). Drug-ridden apartment houses are allowed to remain. Road repair does not get completed. And yet we were somehow voted "The Strongest Town."

Apparently, the town of Brattleboro has chosen not to spend real time concretely addressing the issues that impact so many people who have fewer resources or privileges to fall back upon - people who struggle to make rent.

Endless committee meetings may occur that are paid for by tax dollars, but what direct results do we see around these issues?

Instead, the town of Brattleboro has spent more than a year, and unnecessary labor, pursuing cruel and unnecessary legal action against the people at Brattleboro Common Sense, a small nonprofit, who took it upon themselves to directly help a few human beings in need of shelter during the winter of 2022–2023 by supplying RVs as emergency housing.

Clearly, the maxim is true: No good deed goes unpunished.

* * *

I toured Kurt Daims's property - where Brattleboro Common Sense operates - on a warmish day in March of 2023 after hearing about the supposed smells and safety hazards.

March is the time when poop - be it from cats, dogs, or errant humans - that has been covered by snow is released unto the air and nostrils of all who come upon it.

During my visit, I was relieved to find that it was one of the least smelly yards I ever encountered. I did not smell a single bad odor.

Were there trash cans? Why, yes! Are there a lot of very trashy, hazardous properties in Brattleboro? Yes. Is BCS one of them? Seems low on the list compared to many others.

I went inside one of the RVs where the former resident even had a dog living there. The only smell I noticed was of disinfectant.

I smell more dog, cat, and human poop smells in neighborhoods of homeowners, walking anywhere in Brattleboro, where it often litters the sidewalks, than I did at Brattleboro Common Sense.

There was exactly zero odor of human excrement at BCS. You can't fake that. Odors like that are quite persistent.

I have been thinking of volunteering some garden time, maybe offering to plant some shrubs between that house and the neighbor's to allow BCS some better privacy from the peering eyes of those who persecute people who attempt to help some of the most vulnerable human beings in this town.

* * *

Kurt Daims was once described to me as a gadfly, in the kindest sense. He may have been irritating the town of Brattleboro for decades, both beginning and supporting campaigns to further democratic ideals and increase social justice for the benefit of everyone.

But that does not make it proper or right for the town to try to take Daims's house away, to the tune of $4 million, and therefore displacing even more people.

I hope that the town drops this cruel lawsuit, and finds a more reasonable way to cover some of the increased budgetary line items that they have recently incurred than to take someone's land and home for the crime of helping to shelter people who had none. Should Brattleboro succeed in this endeavor, it would set a terrible legal precedent for all other homeowners.

You can find more information about BCS, its accomplishments, and its work at brattleborocommonsense.org.

To readers: Please consider speaking directly with Selectboard members, others in town government, and anyone in the Vermont Legislature to help put an end to this persecution.

To the town: Please, don't punish this good deed.

This Voices Response was submitted to The Commons.

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