Albany City Council extends funds to Berkeley nonprofit for relocation of homeless

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After facing challenges last year to move a local homeless population, Albany City Council has extended funding to a Berkeley nonprofit in an effort to help the inhabitants find permanent housing.

During its meeting Jan. 21, the council unanimously agreed to pay the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, a homeless and low-income outreach organization, up to $76,000 over the course of one year to continue to find housing for residents of the Albany Bulb. The city is also funding a temporary winter homeless shelter, two prefabricated buildings next to a parking lot about 100 yards from the Bulb.

The Bulb is a waterfront park located at the end of a peninsula in Albany and has served as a place of residence for dozens of homeless people over the years.

In May of last year, the council voted to remove the encampments from the peninsula, starting in October, in order to transition the Bulb to a state park. Soon afterward, the city enlisted the help of BFHP and, in September, renewed the contract for another four months.

The project has successfully found housing for seven homeless residents, though two have been evicted due to inadequate control of their dogs, said Albany public information officer Nicole Almaguer in an email.
With a few of the residents moved out, the Bulb’s population is now about 45 people, according to seven-year Albany Bulb resident Amber Whitson.

The three representatives of BFHP said during the council meeting that they have been successful in starting to develop relationships with the Bulb’s residents and with prospective landlords. However, poor credit scores, low income and pets have presented challenges to locating adequate housing.

But Eric Husted, local activist and member of Share the Bulb, a group dedicated to preserving the area, said BFHP’s efforts have not been very successful due to the lack of trust and poor communication between the Bulb’s residents and the organization. Whitson pointed to the winter homeless shelter in the Bulb area as an example of the inefficient use of the city’s funds, because few residents use the facility due to its strict rules and cameras.

“(BFHP) is not working hard to develop trust regardless of the benefits,” Whitson said. “We are people, and they are treating us like vectors. This is what it feels like to all of us.”

Still, Albany City Council has not yet decided on a deadline for evicting the residents, Almaguer said.

“It has been a really good thing that Albany is recognizing that every city can’t just say, ‘We don’t want to deal with the homeless people,’ ” said Andrew Franklin, the informal liaison between Albany Bulb residents and the city along with BFHP. “From my observation, they are taking the right steps.”

Michelaina Johnson covers city news. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @MichelainaJohns.