.

Freedom as Religion

The steps that my partner made out of "Landfill bricks". Photo: Amber Whitson
The steps that my partner made out of "Landfill bricks". Photo: Amber Whitson
SANCTUARY
Until my partner Phyl and I came to live on the Albany Bulb, every attempt I had ever made at having a home, after graduating high school and moving out on my own, had failed, miserably. 
When we came to the Albany Bulb, we were seeking refuge from constant police harassment — the same mistreatment that any average homeless person is subjected to — while living on the streets. 
What we found was far more than a refuge. We found a Home.

HISTORY OF THE LANDFILL
First, let us review the background and history of this land. The landfill was created on the Albany shoreline in 1963 when the City of Albany signed a contract with the Santa Fe Railroad Company “for the purpose of creating usable land.” 
Until 1975, the operators of the Albany Landfill accepted all types of garbage, even household waste. But the landfill was intended for “demolition debris” and, over time, the earlier garbage was buried under tons of concrete rubble, rebar, wire mesh, corrugated tin, steel, asphalt, glass, plastic and excavated dirt, as well as iron, coke and slag from the local steel mills. 
I have friends who remember watching the landfill as it was being created, and they have told me that the remnants of everything that was “in the way” when the East Bay stretch of BART was built (supposedly including the original Richmond City Hall and Berkeley Public Library) is now buried under years’ worth of detritus, right here in the Albany Landfill. 
For at least 20 years, from 1963 to 1983, a multitude of environmental groups, including Save the Bay and Citizens for the Albany Shoreline, sued the City of Albany and the landfill operators until the operation was finally shut down, in December of 1983. 
In 1985, Albany signed a lease agreement with the California Department of Parks and Recreation, thereby giving the entire landfill property to the State of California for free, with the ultimate goal of turning this “usable land” into part of the State Parks system. 
However, in order for the transfer of ownership and management to take place, the City of Albany was supposed to mitigate the hazards that the state saw in a surface covered with large concrete chunks and rebar.
As another condition of the agreement, Albany was supposed to manage the closed landfill site according to the rules and regulations of the State Parks system (which would have required a strict prohibition on unpermitted camping). 
However, once the landfill was shut down in 1983, nobody ever actually did anything with the land, not even those who had fought so hard to preserve it. 
Nobody, that is, until artists, anarchists and previously homeless individuals, who made homes for themselves on the Albany Bulb, gradually beautified and improved the “uncapped” surface, which was, and still is, dotted with chunks of concrete and rebar.

THE COMMUNITY AT THE BULB 
Next, let us consider the recent history that resulted in people inhabiting the Albany Bulb. In 1993, Albany police started telling homeless Albany residents to “go live on the landfill.” 
The people who moved out here became a community, as neighbors do, building homes for themselves and living lives more “normal” than many of them had previously thought possible.
Then, in 1999, the City of Albany decided to evict the entire Albany Bulb community. City officials set up two temporary trailers that were run by Operation Dignity, a nonprofit that prefers to help only homeless veterans. 
At the same time, the City drafted — and had the police begin to enforce — Albany Municipal Code 8-4.4, the “no camping ordinance” that criminalized and banished the previously homeless individuals who had made homes here on the Bulb. 
I know many people who were evicted from the Albany Bulb in 1999. Virtually all of them are still residually traumatized. And, of those who are still alive, all but two or three remain homeless to this day. 
Within months, the City of Albany instructed the police to cease enforcement of the “no camping” ordinance on the Albany Bulb. So, people came back. And made homes.

SECLUDED LIFE AT THE HERMITAGE
Now, to bring it all back home, I’ll describe how living on the Albany Bulb has affected me and my family. My partner and I moved out here on October 31, 2006. We had been together, living in Berkeley, for about a year and were tired of being harassed by police just because we were homeless. When we moved to the Albany Bulb, a new life began for both of us. 
I cannot say that Phyl and I had “religious” reasons in mind when we first moved to the Bulb. However, I would assert that asking us to change our lifestyle (which has been termed “Urban Survivalist”) from that which we have lived for more than seven years now, to the very lifestyle that we have grown to view as the polar opposite of our own, is very much like asking someone to change their religion. 
I’m pretty sure that if “Hermit” were designated as a protected class of people, there would be legal precedent for saying the State cannot force us to change our beliefs and way of living. 
Even then, could two people who live a life where, for the most part, they avoid contact with the rest of the world — except each other — be considered “a hermit”? (Long ago, our friend Sarah declared us “Phlamber,” rather than Phyl and Amber. Could we be “Phlamber the Hermit”?) 
One dictionary defines a hermit as “a person who has withdrawn to a solitary place for a life of religious seclusion.” I would absolutely say that we have both benefited spiritually, as well as mentally and physically, from our secluded, nature-loving way of living. 
My entire life, I have been plagued by health challenges, both mentally and physically. I have coped with severe ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) for my whole life. I suffered from severe depression when I was younger and my natural disposition has always leaned towards what many would call “neurotic.” And physically, I suffer from a pituitary tumor, lymphedema in my hands, chronic fatigue, myoclonic seizures, bad stomach, back, knees, and the list goes on. 
However, my health, although still far from optimal, has improved since I started living on the Albany Bulb. 
In a letter addressed “To Whom it May Concern,” my psychiatrist declares that I have “intact judgment. Specifically, Amber has chosen a marginalized lifestyle. As she would describe it, she lives ‘off the grid’ and although most of society would classify her as homeless, she feels very much at home in her living situation. She has lived in the home that she has created with her boyfriend for over 6 years. And regardless of the legal status of the situation, I believe that it is the main reason that she continues to have improving mental health. Her decision to protect her housing situation is internally consistent and reasonable within her life framework.”

LIGHT AT END OF THE TUNNEL 
Living at the Albany Bulb is directly responsible for my generally healthier state of body and mind. However, the thought of being forced to leave our quiet home on the Bulb, and all we have poured our blood, sweat, tears and hearts into for the past seven years, only to go back to living on the streets, is terrifying. 
Or, worse yet, to have to leave behind the peaceful existence that seemed like a beautiful light at the end of the dark tunnel of life on the streets, only to live hand-to-mouth “indoors,” with all of our money going towards rent… 
And, what about our cat? Who are we, to take our cat away from the only home that she has known for most of her life? The home that she adopted us in! 
I am proud to say that I am very active in my civic participation in Albany. When Albany created the Homeless Task Force (HTF), I applied for one of the two positions of “Member Representing the Albany Homeless Community,” and was accepted. 
While on the HTF, I met some of the most amazing, passionate and righteous fellow Albany residents. Together, we worked hard to try to come up with suggestions for how Albany might “solve homelessness” using the Housing First model, as we were instructed to do by the Albany City Council. (Housing First is based on the approaach, against the advice of service providers from all around the East Bay and contrary to all current and conventional knowledge.

ENVIRONMENTALISTS FOR EVICTION
On May 6, 2013, when the Homeless Task Force delivered one of our interim reports on homelessness in Albany to the City Council, a throng of lobbyists from Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP) and the Sierra Club stood up and spoke during the public comment period. 
In blatant violation of the Brown Act, the recreationalists used the public comment period for that agenda item to push through their own agenda to evict the residents of the Bulb in order to make a better park “for everyone,” as they put it. 
These once respectable environmental activists have continued to show their passion for “parks over poor people” time and time again since that meeting. And they refuse to acknowledge that their actions of pushing for the eviction of otherwise homeless people from their homes go against the Sierra Club’s own Environmental Justice Policy.
The Sierra Club and CESP even use the word “campers” to describe the residents of the Bulb, so as to make it sound as if they are advocating for the ousting of law-breaking, unpermitted recreationalists, as opposed to otherwise homeless individuals, who have lived in our homes here for years. 
I believe that Albany officials should not be able to give people the gifts of hope, happiness, vitality and health, only to take it away at the whim of lobbyists (i.e., the Sierra Club and CESP), most of whom do not live in Albany, and all of whom have somewhere to live other than the landfill.
For at least the last 20 years, Albany officials have denied that they even had any homeless people living in their town. 
City officials even spent $10,000 to $15,000 of their 2012 Community Development Block Grant funds (a HUD grant allocated to help low-income communities) on a project that was. located in a neighborhood with an average income far higher than the maximum allowable income of a neighborhood in which they are allowed to spend those funds. And then, two months later, they voted unanimously to kick us out of our homes. Yet, they have dragged their feet about any money that they might have to spend to actually place those whom they are about to evict into housing. Instead, they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on supplies that nobody is able to use and on the wages of workers who have accomplished virtually nothing in the six months that they have been contracting with the city.
Now, in 2013, the Albany City Council has (again) hired Operation Dignity to run two temporary trailers set up in the parking lot of the Albany Landfill, and they have been having their police resume enforcement of the “no camping” ordinance that they passed in 1999, specifically for the purpose of removing inhabitants of the Bulb from our longtime homes. 
They have never treated the residents of Albany that live on the Bulb like human beings. We have repeatedly implored the City Council to participate in a dialogue, but they continue to turn a deaf ear to our pleas. 
Instead, Albany officials have hired agencies to work on their behalf to assist them in our "removal" — as if we were rats or roaches, as opposed to human beings.
They have already torn down and thrown away three people’s camps. Only one of those three camps was abandoned at the time it was demolished. City officials posted notice at only one of the inhabited camps, but the inhabitant was away during that week, and came home to discover that his house and all his possessions were gone. Albany officials did nothing to store any of the belongings of the people whose homes they destroyed. They just scooped them up and threw them in the dumpsters. 
So far, they have housed four people from the Bulb: the first person the city housed, experienced a drive-by shooting the day after he moved in, two of the people are already back living on the Bulb. Three more Bulb residents are due to move into housing, today (January 10th, 2014). In May, we had 50 residents; then, at one point, we had 70. Where does the city expect us all to go from here? 
The subsidized housing plan they are currently offering to residents who have a high enough income, includes subsidies for only three months. When the subsidies expire, how will all the extremely-low-income people currently dwelling on the Albany Bulb keep their apartments? Two or three months is just long enough to get us out and put up a fence barring entrance to the Bulb, before we get evicted from our apartments for being too poor. 
Any realistic housing plan would resemble the federal Section 8 program, where we would pay one-third of our income, regardless of the size of that income, and the subsidy would last forever. That is the only way to actually guarantee support for all of us moving into housing. 
Because of the City Council’s refusal to dialogue with us, we have had no resort except suing them in federal court. Albany shows no intention of trying to compassionately end homelessness, and is instead fighting the lawsuit tooth and nail, defending all of their callous actions. 
At one point, Albany officials even went so far as to tell the judge that, despite the fact that other programs sponsored by the city of Albany are required to comply with ADA regulations, their program for Bulb residents does not need to comply — despite the fact that they are aware that virtually all of the inhabitants of the Albany Bulb are disabled individuals. 
As evidence of this lack of accommodation, the small, temporary trailers that the City wants us to crowd ourselves into, have ramps leading up to the doors of the sleeping quarters; yet, no ramps were installed to allow individuals with mobility challenges to use either the bathrooms or the showers. 
The trailers are merely a dog-and-pony show, designed to make it appear as if we are turning our noses up at the things that they are supposedly offering us. 
In fact, it gets even worse.

NO ROOM — EVEN FOR SERVICE DOGS  
The Albany Temporary Shelter has a total of four small “pens” outdoors, behind the trailers and next to the generator, for “shelter participants” to keep their dogs in, in spite of the freezing temperatures that the Bay Area has been experiencing. 
When shelter staff were asked if they were going to comply with the Fair Housing Act by allowing people to have their emotional support animals with them inside their living quarters, or if they would at least allow the two registered service dogs to stay with their people, the response was a flat-out “No.” 
In October, one of the puppies who lived here was shot by a police officer in broad daylight, immediately outside of a tent that was packed with people. When they came outside to see what the source of the five rapid-fire shots was, they were told by the lone, uniformed officer that the puppy had “lunged at" him.
Minutes later, when a detective showed up on the scene, shotgun in hand, he took the officer — who also still had his gun drawn, long after the puppy was dead — to the side. Before they left, they were already trying to convince the shocked Bulb residents that they had seen something other than what they saw. And, by the time that the media was asking questions of the city, the official police report said that the puppy had bitten the detective — who wasn’t even there when the puppy was still alive.
A COMPLETE LACK OF LOW-INCOME SERVICES IN ALBANY
I have repeatedly been accused by city officials and their cohorts of having “refused housing” offered to me by the City. That is an outright lie.
The City of Albany did nothing to get me the Shelter Plus Care housing voucher that I received in 2011. I received that voucher due to the advocacy of the Homeless Action Center, a disability benifits advocacy group in Berkeley. 
Unfortunately, after months of apartment hunting, I found out that I was not able to live in Albany while in the Shelter Plus Care program. Albany has absolutely no services that could be considered the “care” part of Shelter Plus Care. HUD regulations allow distributors of the vouchers (in my case, the Berkeley Housing Authority) to forbid use of the "shelter" vouchers in towns without “care.”
So my voucher expired, unused. It could not be used because the City of Albany has refused to develop any services for low-income individuals in the past 30 years, while every other city in the Bay Area has developed a network of homeless services, housing and shelters.

SHARE THE BULB 
Share the Bulb is an organization of Bulb residents and their supporters, as well as people who recognize the unique nature of this “last liberated zone.” An amazing amount of support has come from Share the Bulb activists. 
When Albany officials came out to throw away one resident’s belongings, the number of people who showed up at the drop of a hat to support our community and protect this space was incredible! 
Artists are another part of the support network who help to keep this space alive and flourishing. Please come out to the Bulb and make amazing art, while you still can!

‘WILD ART’ AT THE BULB
There is a long history of “wild art” at the Bulb: the Sniff murals, the Fairy Castle, Osha Neumann’s human sculptures, the Library created by Jimbow. 
The City of Albany and the State Parks have plans to choke the life out of this beautiful tradition of self-expression, by allowing only art which has been formally permitted, and forbidding non-regulated art. This would be a crime against true artistic freedom!
The Albany Bulb has always been the last place that is outside of the permit process, outside the ordinances. It’s like the last pinhead of land that is truly free and that remains natural and uncorrupted, safe from gentrification.
Together, we can call upon the City of Albany, the Sierra Club, Citizens for East Shore Parks, and the East Bay Regional Parks District to keep the Bulb wild. Together, we can address the problems faced by a growing number of Americans who are experiencing poverty, and treat one another with respect and compassion, rather than with ignorance and a careless disregard for fellow human beings.
All I want to do is go back to the peaceful existence that my partner and I enjoyed, living in harmony with nature, before all this fear of homelessness came about. I can’t help but be emotionally overwhelmed at the very thought of being forced to live on the streets again, as I did for eight years before we moved here. 
We have now had our home on the Albany Bulb for seven years and counting. This is my home address with the Registrar of Voters for Alameda County. For years, we have been assured by Albany police that we “can stay here, as long as (we) want.” Well, let this be one of the few times in my life that I actually accept something offered to me by a cop.

*****
Please join our growing community by visiting www.sharethebulb.org. Watch our film on the website, and email us at sharethebulb@gmail.com, so you can stay in the loop about events here at the Bulb. Or, better yet, come visit the Albany Bulb. It’s located at 1 Buchanan Street Extension in Albany, California. Come see for yourself exactly what hundreds of park visitors (from preschool classes to college classes, and from day hikers to dog walkers) enjoy about this place, every day, year round.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

thorn January 10, 2014 at 11:15 PM
Amber your claims of "not refusing housing" are nonsense. You are on FEDERAL aid, administred by a COUNTY. You do not have the right to demand housing in a particular City, and you HAVE turned down housing in Alameda County. When Phyl told me you were being offered a place in West Oakland, i asked if you were going to look at it and your reply was "I didn't do all this work out here for nothing" .. don't scam us with claims you want to move indoors in Albany, you want to use the excuse of Albany's services to stay on the Bulb. Between the contradictions, details missing, and outright lies in your tales.. no one is buying and you should stop selling already, you're only making it worse. By your logic, and the precedent you attempt to set, all Parks are now fair game for the homeless to move on in. Not as if Amber will read this, but i think the quote below sums up how everyone feels about the situation > notice the SEVENTY recommends on this comment by another Patch user >> Amber has set back the cause of truly needy people, she has managed to further perpetuate the image of the freeloading poor. I'm sure they will thank Amber for it. I, and I imagine many others, are now much less willing to help anyone who looks as if they need help. Thanks again, Amber. You are truly a spokesperson and inspiration for those you profess to help. Now get out of our town. Perhaps you can try your luck at finding a real job? 70 Recommended <<
thorn January 10, 2014 at 11:19 PM
>> go back to the peaceful existence<< ??????? you forget that I recall how "peaceful" it is out there, how well you all get along, and how often you detailed how "peaceful" it is in writing
Mr Eous January 11, 2014 at 11:25 AM
This is Amber's "Hail Mary" pass to try and win over the hearts and minds of Albany citizens yet again. Don't feign ignorance, Amber; you can't live out there on that land and you know it.
downerave January 11, 2014 at 03:13 PM
Whatever... Not listening any more. Time to go.
dorthy manser January 11, 2014 at 06:13 PM
This isn't for us, it's for a wider audience of political liberals who will accept the facts as Amber presents them and use her rather eloquent remarks to buttress their sense that the homeless are an oppressed class. All of the efforts by the city and it's citizens to help the people on the bulb will be dismissed, or ignored. What will be left will be a narrative of oppression and innocence.
Laney Russell January 11, 2014 at 06:28 PM
Here again are Chief McQuiston's examples of the "peaceful existence" at The Bulb which include harassment and violence directed towards an African-American couple. I wonder how Amber reconciles overt racism with peace? ------------------4. A female park visitor walking her dog on the Bulb, whose dog was attacked by two dogs from a homeless camp, was told to "get the fuck out of here." While departing the area she was chased by a female suspect holding what she believed was a knife, who shouted "I have a knife and will stab you and your dog." When police responded and detained the suspect, she was found to be in possession of a 7" screwdriver. The suspect was placed under private person's arrest for assault with a deadly weapon (APD# 12-2027). 5. We've investigated a report of a violent sexual assault involving forced oral copulation, sodomy and theft after the male suspect and female victim smoked methamphetamine together (APD #13-0462). 6. A homeless African-American couple was effectively run off the Bulb following a disturbance involving racial/hate crime connotations after they attempted to set up camp on the Bulb. After staying one night they told officers they did not feel safe after being racially harassed and threatened by multiple persons, one of whom held a brick in hand while a dog attacked and bit the victim on his arm (APD #13-1349). 7. Albany police responded to a reported stabbing wherein the suspect (aBulb camper) had pulled a knife on another and sliced him in the face, causing a severe laceration to upper and lower lips (APD# 13-0513). 8. I have also received a confidential report of a camper who lives in anisolated area where he can "beat his girlfriend in peace." This victim was reported to me to have two black eyes which were being disguised behind makeup. (APD # 130812041). 9. In another case a different female victim was beaten, resulting in two black eyes and cuts under her eye and on her forehead by another male camper (APD# 13-1777).
Kirsten Schwartz January 11, 2014 at 08:16 PM
I prefer Francesco's postings.
Fran Haselsteiner January 11, 2014 at 09:43 PM
Amber, I haven't commented here before, but I would like to make a couple of observations that I hope you will consider. One, you wrote this piece, which indicates to me that you are employable. Two, you sound pretty entitled for someone who, to be blunt, is not productive in society but expects a whole lot from society. I totally supported myself from before age 18 and worked hard for the 44 years before I retired. That meant I didn't have "freedom," as you see it, but I took care of myself, despite a highly neglectful upbringing. Anyway, the day after I retired, I went to the Trieste and told the barista that I had just retired, and he congratulated me. A guy who hangs out there overheard and said I had to be an idiot if I had worked 44 years. I suspect this is a common attitude among a certain part of the population. The thing is, a lot of people are poor and work very hard, and they take responsibility for themselves and their families. We should honor honest work. I do believe that if people need help, they should get it, but not to the point where they are totally dependent when they have ability. You have an opportunity now to make a change to better your life. Whether you do or not is your choice. You can't blame the people of Albany for not fixing your problems in the way you expect them to. You have responsibility for your own fate.
Amber Whitson January 12, 2014 at 07:08 AM
Thank you, Fran, for your thoughtful comment. For you to say that, the fact that I "wrote this piece indicates" that I am "employable", is (frankly) presumptive. I have multiple disabilities, many/most of which are a severe hindrance to many of the responsibilities that are necessary to hold down a job. Not least of which is my health (both mental AND physical), although (thankfully) none of my disabilities have resulted in a diminished intelligence. Also, for you to say that I "sound pretty entitled for someone who, to be blunt, is not productive in society but expects a whole lot from society", sounds rather presumptive, as well. Would you mind telling me which part of my article (which, by the way, is in this month's Street Spirit) you feel makes me sound "entitled"? Also, what would one need to do, in order for you to consider them "productive in society"? And, what is it that you believe that I "expect" from "society"? I commend you on having totally supported yourself from such a young age (as well as for overcoming an unfortunate upbringing) and also for, subsequently, having worked hard for another 44 years before your (no doubt, much deserved) retirement. Your story about having told the barista that you had just retired, only for some "guy who hangs out there" to have "overheard" your good news and had the audacity to tell you that you "had to be an idiot if you had worked 44 years" is a damn shame (as well as mighty narrow-minded of him and rather arrogant judgement, coming from someone whose entire purpose in life just might be "hanging out". I, too, sometimes wonder if this isn't a common attitude among a certain part of the population. And it is always comforting to find another person who is NOT a member of that "part". I have been "poor" my whole life (although, I have always thought of it more like "forced thrift") and anybody who lives "on the streets" (as I did for eight years, before moving here) has had to "work very hard", at some point, just to survive. The people out here (on the Bulb) work even more than that (by far). My partner and I take responsibility for ourselves and our family and we absolutely honor honest work. I agree with you, that "if people need help, they should get it, but not to the point where they are totally dependent when they have ability". And, with (at least) some people, that can be a difficult line to walk. But, Fran, when you say that I "have an opportunity now to make a change to better (my) life", what "opportunity" is it, that you believe I have? Regardless of the lies that thorn tells (that the uninformed believe) I have had no magical "opportunity" to better my life. What I do have, is the ability to be a liaison between people on "this side of the tracks" and people on "the other side of the tracks". And, as of yesterday, that ability resulted in six disabled individuals and a pregnant couple (six of whom want housing) signing up for GA and/or Food Stamps, out here. That would not have been possible without the coordination of myself and the lawyers (who came out to the Bulb, and signed them up). I don't "blame the people of Albany for not fixing (my) problems". There is no "fix" for the "problems" that I do have. And, if there was, I certainly wouldn't expect (nor trust) other people to fix them. Also, I don't understand what you must think that my idea of "freedom" is? In the context of this article, I mean freedom from police harassment and freedom from the "prison" which my health used to make me feel as though I was trapped in (as opposed to the comparative "house arrest" that I now feel it holds me in). Please, don't take my questions as my being confrontational, Fran. I ask them only to try and understand better share your coming from. I truly do thank you for your intelligent comment and look forward eagerly to any further discussion/understanding that our correspondence might result in. Thank you.
Senior A. Titude January 12, 2014 at 11:43 AM
Amber, you are clearly articulate. You can use a computer. You have "intact judgment". That makes you employable. Based on the lack of spelling and grammatical errors in your writing, maybe those lawyers representing you could arrange for you to do document editing part-time in whatever setting you currently use a computer until you can afford your own (if you don't have one). The world is full of people who can't spell, or use spell check apparently, so that gives you a leg up. Why don't you see if those Orinda attorneys will really do something for you?
Laney Russell January 12, 2014 at 01:53 PM
Lots of disabled people have jobs. That is no excuse.
Fran Haselsteiner January 12, 2014 at 02:28 PM
Amber, thank you for your response. I'm sorry if I seem presumptuous, but my observations were based on what you wrote. We all have to be careful not to engage in circular thinking. That means taking a good look at one's assumptions. You seem to see only one path. I'm not a doctor or psychologist or social worker--just someone who has had to cope with what I had, and my life is far better than I ever imagined it could be. I don't know what opportunities exist to be completely evaluated or to get housing as a recipient of SSI. You are clearly very articulate and empathetic. In this life, we gotta use what we have and the help we can get to find a way to survive. Clearly, living on the bulb is not a long-term plan, and I sincerely hope that you can find a way to get better care for yourself.
thorn January 12, 2014 at 03:40 PM
>> And, what is it that you believe that I "expect" from "society"?<< HILARIOUS<<!!! how about you expect $$$ every month, you expect us to give up a park, you expect us to tell YOU when there is an unruly Bulb camper giving us trouble because apparently you run the Bulb... You, on FEDERAL assistance administered by a COUNTY think you can tell a City to provide you with low income housing "or else" you will sue and occupy.... gee, i wonder which part of you sounds entitled...
dorthy manser January 12, 2014 at 04:47 PM
Incredible that someone who sucks up thousands of dollars of tax payer's money every year, depends on pro bono lawyers for her political activities, and squats for free on public land feels fit to lecture us about the meaning of freedom. It's time for the city of Albany to kick these people out. As in now.
Kirsten Schwartz January 12, 2014 at 05:54 PM
Excellent reality checking, thorn.
Laney Russell January 12, 2014 at 07:40 PM
Amber if you come back to respond to Thorn's comments, please do me the favor of answering this question. If your health is improving at The Bulb, why is your list of physical ailments growing longer and longer? This makes no sense.
Rochelle Nason January 12, 2014 at 09:44 PM
I see the rays of truth starting to pierce the thick clouds of denial in this remark: "Or, worse yet [than returning to living on the streets], to have to leave behind the peaceful existence that seemed like a beautiful light at the end of the dark tunnel of life on the streets, only to live hand-to-mouth “indoors,” with all of our money going towards rent." Hmmm . . . so perhaps this is not really about living in nature, multiple disabilities, emotional dependence on pets, a need to live in a community of like-minded fellows (or a need for seclusion from others, in this particular post), and so forth and so on . . . but it is as simple as preferring to avoid paying rent? It is no surprise, Amber, that you and your partner have other priorities for your monthly checks, but this hardly constitutes a compelling case for living in a public park and denying its use to the broader community.
Willbert T. January 12, 2014 at 10:23 PM
Amber, you want this land to be set aside for you and your friends, but what have you done to earn it? You talk about "wild art" but who besides you sees any value in the things you've created? You want to be given land, food, security and all the benefits of modern society but you don't give anything in return. Isn't that the definition of a parasite? If you want to be free of society then go live out in the wilderness away from everyone else and be self sufficient.
Kirsten Schwartz January 12, 2014 at 10:56 PM
Wilbert T., I actually agree with the idea that we should get to live free and have art and libraries and not have to work all the time to see our money eaten up by rent (or mortgages). Most tribal peoples had fairly indolent lives, working 2-3 days a week. Our modern life is crazy, complicated, stressful. HOWEVER, it's the way we gotta live--or else we risk living off others (parasite). It has its good parts, too--and, of course, rent in Albany is high, but it's lower in Vallejo. Rent is always high in the nice places. So I agree with Amber's desires, but disagree with her entitlement to opt out of the difficulties we face. How much has she contributed to the taxes that help us have the fire department that put out the fire at the Bulb library today? Civilization has its discontents, but Fire Departments are a huge benefit and worth the stress.
Alan Eckert January 13, 2014 at 01:23 PM
Since Amber mentioned that this article is in the Street Spirit, I went to go check it out. I found that there is another article in the paper (also printed in the January edition) dated January 8, 2014 about the bulb camps: http://www.thestreetspirit.org/albanys-inhumane-and-irresponsible-eviction-plans/ <<>> Much of it is a rehash of what we've heard before: the shelter is apparently a prison with absolutely no rights; the City is taking the wrong course about providing housing to people; everyone is free and healthy living on the Bulb; etc. Of course they are preaching to their audience, but there are some quotes that I find audacious: "“Living large,” is how [Scott] describes life on the landfill." <<>> Amber is then quoted as saying “What they’re doing is wrong. And we’ll put every obstacle in their way until they get it right.” She is not going to leave on her own, and the article insinuates that we MUST spend money on them and as if everything else being done by the city and citizens is out of bad intentions. What's worse is that people are encouraging others who need real and tangible help from seeking it from the available venues. We hear the doublespeak about wanting housing when the other message repeated ad nauseam is about how it is better that they stay where they are. You can't have it both ways, and I will continue to support efforts to get people the housing and attention they need, but on a much faster time schedule than the self-appointed advocates for campers are proposing (which seems to be never).
Philip William Lewis January 13, 2014 at 05:17 PM
Check this out. When 'known' lawyers align themselves with 'known' drug dealers in order to discredit a 'lone' Amber...The End is Near

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