Albany Bulb residents to move out of encampments following settlement with city

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After a settlement Wednesday, dozens of residents of Albany Bulb — a former landfill that has become a home to many of Albany’s homeless — are preparing to pack up their belongings and find a new place to reside.

In May, Albany City Council voted to begin the process of removing the residents at the Bulb by enforcing the city’s no-camping ordinance. But several law firms, on behalf of the residents, filed a suit against the city claiming the relocation process violated the residents’ rights. A settlement reached Wednesday offered 28 residents $3,000 each if they leave by Friday and agree to stay away from the park for a year.

The City Council is also continuing with a one-year contract with the Berkeley Food and Housing Project to help all of Albany’s homeless find new living arrangements, jobs and services for people struggling with mental disabilities and drug addiction.

Characterized by the diverse array of urban art and clear views of the bay, the Bulb is also a popular park and hiking spot for the Albany community. According to the Albany city manager, however, the area has become hazardous due to debris, so the city hopes to clean it up and make the park a more inviting and open space. This requires evicting those who live there, many of whom have been residents of the Bulb for years.

“The solution to homelessness is not to push people out or tell them where they can’t be,” said Elisa Della-Piana, an attorney for the East Bay Community Law Center who worked on the lawsuit. “The solution is housing.”

Bobby Anderson, who has lived at Albany Bulb for two years, described the Bulb as a safe haven and a welcome change from the streets of Oakland. Nonetheless, Anderson appreciates the money from the settlement and the prospect of a cleaned-up Bulb.

Not all residents, though, agree.

“It’s horrifying to think about living anywhere but here,” said Bulb resident Amber Whitson.

She and her partner were the only ones who rejected the settlement offer. They have lived at Albany Bulb for nearly eight years and said they are determined to stay there.

“The city has tried to work with (Bulb residents) since July, and we will continue to work with them,” said Penelope Leach, Albany’s city manager.

The city has provided temporary housing for the Bulb’s residents, but many are unhappy about the arrangements, saying they do not accommodate people with disabilities.

“I’m at the end of my rope,” said Bulb resident George Harris. “A lot of us are reclusive, and a lot of us have terminal illnesses.”

Leach, though, said the city is doing its best to “safely, compassionately and humanely” work with the homeless at Albany Bulb.

Contact Kathleen Tierney at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @kathleentierney.

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  • What is truly sad is that homelessness is an issue at all. Utah is making strides. It is estimated that each homeless person living on the street costs taxpayers 30k year in health care and other services, yet some people don’t understand that they could pay less and give a homeless person a house. It’s not fair that I have to work to pay my rent and a homeless person doesn’t. But in reality if I can pay less taxes and house someone, it seems like a no brainer unless of course I am just arguing out of resentment and bitterness about life being unfair. It has been interesting watching the battle of the Bulb. On one side you have homeless people suffering from addiction and mental illness and on the the other side you have people who want a dog park (The East Bay Park and the Sierra Club.)

    • Mel Content

      It is estimated that each homeless person living on the street costs taxpayers 30k year in health care and other services, yet some people don’t understand that they could pay less and give a homeless person a house.

      If you have ever seen houses trashed by homeless squatters, you wouldn’t be making such a naive and silly statement. In addition, there are plenty of hard-working, responsible people who don’t have houses, so whose houses do you propose to give the homeless again, and who do you propose to fund them?

      • Guest

        Naive and silly? Your judgement of homeless people as irresponsible lazy is pure class biggotry. It’s your understanding of homeless people that has caused the US to be the owner of the worst homeless problem out of all developed nations.

      • If you know it is going to cost 30k a year for each person, don’t you think it is a much better idea to take that money and rent them a home, pay for psych and drug treatment, and give them the potential to rejoin society. Utah and other European countries have already found that the Housing First Model, model based on the idea that people need to have a stable house before they can gain any other form of stability that would allow them to become a productive society member, is the solution that works the best. Empathy is obviously not your strong suite, hopefully you are better at math, finances, and economic investment.

  • tahoerochelle

    The settlement is good news – more resources for the homeless, and the return of the park to public use. It is just sad that so much was wasted on litigation and on the legally-required-but-unwanted temporary emergency shelter. The slogan ‘the solution is housing’ sounds great, but it ignores the reality that many encampment residents will choose a free campsite, when it is offered, over housing that will consume 30-40 % of their income. Homeless advocates need to take a.broader view – working people matter too, and they and everyone else should be able to enjoy the public parks.