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Warnings Issued to Albany Bulb Dwellers

Albany police issued curfew violation warnings to Albany Bulb campers Wednesday night, and the city announced that three Bulb residents have found alternative housing thanks to city-sponsored assistance efforts.

One of the campsites on the Albany Bulb. Photo credit: Charles Burress, Dec. 1, 2013
One of the campsites on the Albany Bulb. Photo credit: Charles Burress, Dec. 1, 2013
Albany police issued 15 warnings of curfew violations to people living in the Albany Bulb camps Wednesday night, according to the city.

The warnings come as part of the city's "Transition Plan" to evict the longstanding encampments of several dozen people living in makeshift shelters and tents on the city-owned peninsula in order to realize the city's long-established policy of making the property part of McLaughlin Eastshore State Park.

Albany police issued similar curfew violation warnings on the evening of Oct. 9.

3 Bulb residents obtain housing, city announces

In related news, the city announced today, Thursday, that three residents from the Bulb have been placed in housing as result of the city's outreach efforts and community support.

"The City’s Outreach & Engagement to homeless results in housing three people from the Albany Bulb," says an announcement on the city website. "This success is the result of ongoing efforts by the City's service provider Berkeley Food and Housing Project, as well as strong community support from the Solano Community Church and the Albany Community Foundation."

"The Solano Community Church provided relocation assistance, helping the three people move their items from the Bulb to the rental," according to a city news release. "Additionally, the Albany Community Foundation provided $100 gift cards to each person to assist with the purchase of items for the new rental."

Content of the curfew notices

The warnings issued Wednesday night and in October cited a city law – Section 8-4.3 of the Municipal Code – saying, "No person shall use, remain in or enter upon any waterfront and Albany Hill area between 10:00 p.m. and 5:30 a.m."

The back side of the warnings issued Wednesday night included information about the services that the city is offering to help, including the temporary homeless shelter that the city opened next to the Bulb on Nov. 22, assistance through the Berkeley Food and Housing Project (BFHP) in finding alternative housing, and rental subsidy funds available from the city. (Copies of both sides of the warning are attached to this article.)

Bulb resident Amber Whitson said her notice was delivered by three Albany police officers who came to her gate and called out her name.

"They were quite polite, and assured me that the bugs have been smoothed out of the process that people go through, when trying to check into the shelter," she said.

There have been complaints about people being turned away from the shelter, which was empty most nights during the first week after it opened. This past week, one person stayed each night from Saturday through Tuesday, and two people stayed Wednesday night, according to the city. 

Question over eligibility for city housing subsidy

Whitson pointed to a problem she saw with the cash subsidy program described in the warning notices issued Wednesday night. The notice's section on the city's housing subsidy program says:

"BFHP is also identifying individuals interested in a housing subsidy program. The subsidy program is a collaborative and supportive approach to help connect people with housing. Under the subsidy, the City of Albany will cover a portion of the monthly rent, along with available grant funding, and a portion of the rent will be covered by the tenants."

Whitson said an earlier notice distributed by the city at the Bulb on Oct. 28 said those who wish to apply for the subsidy must have had a Housing Readiness Assessment on file with BFHP as of Oct. 7, meaning that it was already too late for those without the assessment on file to qualify by the time the notices were distributed.

City Manager Penelope Leach told Patch today, Thursday, that it's not too late for Bulb residents to apply for the subsidy. The wording on the earlier notice was intended to limit the subsidy to those who've been living on Bulb for some time, as opposed to newcomers who may have arrived since the city began offering special services, she said.

She said Bulb residents – or other homeless in Albany – are welcome to offer any kind of evidence to show they've been on the Bulb or homeless in the city since before Oct. 7. This could include their having been known to city officials, she said. They don't have to be on the BFHP Housing Readiness Assessment list as of Oct. 7, she said.

Leach noted, for example, the different ways that eligibility to use the shelter can be demonstrated. City Clerk Nicole Alamguer previously named the following ways that shelter-eligibility verification can be made:

1. Staff compiled a list of people living at the bulb. This list can be used to help verify when a person is indeed transitioning from the Bulb to the temporary shelter

2. The person can also allow Berkeley Food and Housing Project to verify that the person has been living at the Bulb

3. The person can show their previous campsite to city staff to verify they have been living at the Bulb

"We're open to listing anyone who wants help," Leach said.

The City Council approved $35,000 in funding for the subsidy program, which is intended to be used with BFHP subsidy funding from an Emergency Solutions Grant along with contributions from the tenants, Leach said.

Background on Albany Bulb issue

For background on the city's plan for the Albany Bulb and protests by opponents of the eviction, see our list of recent Patch articles and reader posts about the issue:

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christopher papazoglow December 06, 2013 at 10:26 PM
I think i read somewhere that part of their mission was land acqisition for the Eastshore Park system.
thorn December 06, 2013 at 10:46 PM
>> begs the question of why shouldn't Citizens for East Shore Parks, et al, dig into theirown pockets to help the City of Albany's taxpayers defrray the costs of transitioning the Bulb to hand over to Eastshore Park<< for one because that the Bulb will be turned over to east shore parks is Secondary to the issue of the Citizens of Albany wanting the park back, for two- wow, the unending entitlement reasoning that everyone should pay people to give back what they have been stealing... /// Brian Parker's first comment and it's # of "recommends" sounds about right.. Maybe we are all being a bit tough on Amber, but she has also been painting all of us with a broad brush for some time now...
christopher papazoglow December 06, 2013 at 11:23 PM
You're right, thorn, it IS secondary to the issue that the citizens of Albany want their park back. And they SHOULD get it back. They're certainly paying enough for it. Should they be expected to shoulder ALL the costs of handing it over to Eastshore Parks, without CESP chipping in?
Robin Onaka December 07, 2013 at 12:09 AM
Rochelle, I agree with what you say 99% of the time. However, with regards to the Kilpatrick, Townsend law firm's attorneys contributing a small portion of their salaries to their clients because "the legal advice given may have done considerable harm" to the campers - not so much. The firm's attorneys may have deep pockets compared to Osha's firm and the Homeless Action Center, but I bet they picked up all of the costs (filling fees, etc.) and that all of the legal documents were prepared and finalized at their office. You probably have done the same thing as you do a lot of pro bono work yourself. I would think the campers were given options by their counsel as to how they wanted to proceed and that everything was explained to them in language they could understand. And they decided to go forward. I do agree with you that Osha Neumann and his firm should have stayed out of it. Sometimes you can't see out of the box when there is too much of a personal investment involved.
Joker Presents December 07, 2013 at 12:31 AM
When a human being is subjected to living without housing, that environment becomes their home. Simply put, those without such experience sound awfully ignorant with their biased comments.
Bart Grossman December 07, 2013 at 02:46 AM
Seems like we're doing a lot of - who can we blame? - here this evening. I don't think the city is looking for an "Operation Clear the Bulb" type of perception. I think they are move cautiously and step by step and I doubt anyone who is close to this is enjoying it. You have to step back and ask yourself, what kind of country is this where people end up living in sheds on a landfill? I've seen that in the third world, but this is the richest country in the world. How could this be where we are now?
thorn December 07, 2013 at 03:06 AM
>>Simply put, those without such experience sound awfully ignorant with their biased comments << i was outside for 6+ years and never had the luxury of a permanent camp, nor did i expect to, and i dont find these people ignorant at all. Ironically, i find the idea that people and cities have so much $$ lying around they can give free housing to people who demand it ignorant and biased. >>what kind of country is this where people end up living in sheds on a landfill? <<< let's not get confused here.. this is not a 3rd world landfill that is still in use, it is a capped, clean fill that is also a PARK. I personally, and i imagine others are beyond fed up with any claims that these people have had no other options- "section 8 takes year" - they've had years, and the majority of these people, no matter what their claims are currently, are outside because they are either on drugs, don't want a job, don't want to pay rent, or some combination of all three. the question is not "what kind of country is this:" the question is "what kind of people are these, and why are we enabling them"
Rochelle Nason December 07, 2013 at 12:19 PM
Absolutely agree, thorn, about the high-functioning campers. As for the high-income lawyers of Kilpatrick Townsend (and perhaps other law firms represented on the EBCLC board), and their obligation (as I see it) to help: I would agree with Robin that the lawyers are probably blameless if all the campers fell into the high-functioning category. Someone like Amber, or April, or K.C., can make a reasoned decision to risk being evicted, in return for a shot at a longer tenure on "their" lands - and they are obviously well able to get into housing, if and when they get motivated to get up and out of their tents. However, I suspect that there are also low-functioning campers out there who need special help - rehab, permanent supportive housing, special transitional arrangements, maybe even conservatorships. These are things that take TIME and RESOURCES to arrange. If the current situation was engineered at the expense of these vulnerable people, for the sake of the high-functioning campers, the artworks, anarchist political goals, or whatever, it is a great shame. Those who participated in that engineering, who are in a position to provide assistance, should do what they can to help.
Joker Presents December 07, 2013 at 01:20 PM
Sounds as if some people have low expectations. I understand why one without housing would or wouldn't exist there. Interesting how those with or without experience can or cannot relate and understand. I don't think any arrangement outside is to be considered luxurious. I believe they provide an insufficient amount of funding/assistance. The scraps they are throwing may be helpful to some. At the end of the day, it's only being done due to rid the undesirable. Unhealthy, toxic, even hazardous/dangerous FEMA trailers, landfills, SRO's, shelters and the like are not free. They come with a heavy price tag (maybe not financially). Interchangeable->Parks->Landfills->Military Bases, etc. Past evidence clearly indicates many times they are contaminated. Yes, public, affordable, subsidized housing options can take years. Assuming it's available and you're actually selected. Hmm, I wonder why one would turn to drugs/alcohol, not be interested in a job/paying rent, etc. All of the money goes to the top earners. The earners at the bottom percentile don't earn enough to survive. That's the type of country we live in. That amongst more makes complete sense as to why issues like this are commonplace.
Brian Parker December 07, 2013 at 01:24 PM
There definitely is at least one person with serious mental health issues living out on the Bulb. Can't pretend to make a diagnosis but I had the chance to talk with him on Coastal Clean Up Day a few months ago. Really needs help and is subject to the influence of the squatter leadership. That pretty clearly is Amber and a few others. At the end of this process all of the distractions that have been introduced (two lawsuits, Oakland Anarchists, Occupy the Farm involvement, marches, press strategy,etc.) get in the way of focusing on those folks who really can't effectively get themselves into a better situation without societal help. So all of the obvious boycotting of help offered by BFHP and the City serves to hurt the poor souls like the fellow I talked with.
Joker Presents December 07, 2013 at 01:42 PM
Raising awareness usually doesn't provide barriers. If anything, it helps to alleviate them. The ugliness of mislabeling is shameful.
doris December 07, 2013 at 02:27 PM
What kind of country do we live in? Seems fairly obvious: the kind which allows anyone to take over public land and claim it as their own and which then subsidizes this takeover with the toil of those who will do for themselves. Try that in a third world country and see what happens, "campers"....feel free to leave and go there. That's another great thing about this country: everyone is free to leave.
Joker Presents December 07, 2013 at 03:10 PM
Sadly (in some regards), all people are not created equally. One would hope that it's painfully obvious that people residing in such an environment have legitimate reasons as to why. Another hope would be that communities have reasonable empathy towards such. It's also a country that allows companies, corporations, individuals, et al., to maintain vacant buildings/homes, etc. Does a low-wage earner often times subsidize their employer? Yes. Community cleansing, anyone?
thorn December 07, 2013 at 03:45 PM
>> I don't think any arrangement outside is to be considered luxurious.<< now that sounds like someone who has never lived outside, and also has no idea how these folks on the Bulb are living.. Trying to put the "why are these people on drugs in the first place" on us "rich housed people" is ludicrous. Really taking the entitlements to a new level here/
thorn December 07, 2013 at 03:50 PM
>>> have legitimate reasons as to why.<<< "legitimate" that's a good one.
Rochelle Nason December 07, 2013 at 06:19 PM
Joker Presents and Bart Grossman, we have all heard quite enough of the arguments that "the situation on the Bulb is just terrible, homeless people are suffering, and this MUST CONTINUE until our morally corrupt bourgeouisie finds a way to end homelessness (or, until a socialist government takes power, or, until utopian anarchy causes the state to wither away, or, whatever)." If you have any realistic ideas about how to help the people who are about to be evicted - to minimize the time they will need to spend in the hostel-style shelter, and successfully move on to the next phase of their lives - you will have an interested audience. As for "what kind of country": any country that offers rent-free land to build on, permit-free, in an expensive urban area, will find people interested in that deal. Albany's problem is that far too many people took it up on such an offer, so we could not keep holding it open - and the city's legal advice was that we could could not set an expiration date on the offer, either. There are plenty of legitimate concerns about income inequality in this country, but the situation on the Bulb is not in any meaningful way an exemplar of that particular problem - and it seems to me that trying to link them is just a form of political exploitation of troubled people who need help.
doris December 07, 2013 at 06:29 PM
Wow, Rochelle, you cut to the chase very eloquently. Thank you.
christopher papazoglow December 07, 2013 at 06:37 PM
Here's an idea how to help the people who are about to be evicted...the people who complain so much about them "needing to get their lives together" do something THEMSELVES to help them achieve that, rather than just falling back on "I pay taxes to provide for them". Rochelle Nason, for example, has done pro bono work HERSELF to help those in need to connect with services. You, or someone you know, may have some work that could be done. April Anthony COULD make a living from the unique mobiles and jewelry she's created, but has had a terrible time trying to establish marketing for it.
dorthy manser December 07, 2013 at 06:59 PM
Joker, in my experience, in a political context, "raising awareness" means pushing a particular agenda. I wonder where you would draw the line. If they were camped out in Memorial Park, would that be OK with you? And why do you think it's OK for them to keep unleashed dogs in a public space? Would it be reasonable for the cops to enforce a leash law on the Bulb? Would it be reasonable for the cops to enforce any law? What responsibilities do you think the campers have? None? Some? Who gets to decide that? You?
dorthy manser December 07, 2013 at 07:04 PM
Chris, what the makes you think I have an obligation to them?
Rochelle Nason December 07, 2013 at 07:29 PM
christopher, your post is very timely, now that the eviction is really looming, people will probably start moving, and they are going to need help - financial help, furniture, haircuts and new clothing, and so on and so forth. With the holidays coming and the weather so cold (four homeless people actually perished from exposure in Santa Clara over the past few days), this is a great time for us all to think about what we can do to support the Berkeley Food & Housing Project (if we are so inclined). Their site is here: http://bfhp.org/donate/ Beyond the immediate financial needs, hopefully there will be more ways for Albany people to help if they are financially straitened themselves but are willing to offer skills, time, energy, etc. It would be great to see this whole issue going in a constructive direction now.
christopher papazoglow December 07, 2013 at 08:17 PM
dorthy, where did i suggest you have an obligation to them? And to single you out, you're one of the few of the commenters i've seen who do more thanjust look for something to complain about. As Rochelle and a few others have said many times, it's going to take INVOLVEMENT from members of the community to help those who want it to move FORWARD. Has viewing both the city and the campers ( and their encampments ) as entities, caused very many constructive ideas or actions to be generated by those who have commented on Patch? For the most part, i've mainly seen a lot of back-and-forth "You're wrong", productive of little or nothing. Some of that has come from ME also, i'm sure. But i'm TRYING to think of costructive stuff.
Joker Presents December 07, 2013 at 08:23 PM
I have some ideas. However, my aim is not to have an interested audience. When respectfully disagreeing, my aim is to enlighten. Provide permanent suitable, affordable housing. Stop the corrupt bureaucracy found in the social services system. Stop or at least significantly reduce abuse, fraud, waste, incompetency/inefficiency, etc. Create a luxury tax, community tax or even business/corporation tax (for profit exceeds) where monies go directly towards properly housing individuals rather than government employment, programs/approaches deemed ineffective. Reallocate funding from what's not working to what has. In some instances, consider consolidation or even eliminate. I find resources to be better used in concentrated efforts rather than sporadic ones. End unnecessary hurdles that many times alienate houseless individuals (here, there is one of many: http://albany.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/warnings-issued-to-albany-bulb-dwellers). Provide empowerment, not discouragement. End unrealistic expectations. Sorry to say, those determined to have issues that deem them unemployable have an extraordinary difficult time acquiring/maintaining proper housing. It goes without saying situations are unique and differ, therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach shouldn't apply. Improve communications between organizations and their clients. Work to improve funding at all levels of government. Improve oversight and accountability of existing and new programs. I don't believe many houseless individuals have a good perception on assistant programs such as BFHP, Operation Dignity, or FEMA. Locate more alternative sources of funding (none taxpayer, government). Build with business leaders, communities, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, etc. Possibly continue to build with helpful churches.Fundraisers could be a good idea. A healthy social community goes a long way. A properly housed, healthy individual is far less financially troublesome than one that's not. Appropriate funding to success - not just in statistics, but client's approval/standard of life. End long-term homelessness should be the main objective, not a non-effective short-term solution that many times result in individuals re-visiting houselessness. In short, consider and work toward long-term recovery and not program/funding based statistical initiatives. I believe this would significantly contribute towards ending the resolving-door. Much of the comments display negativity towards those with an already overwhelming burden. This is not productive. I look at this as being comparable to humans/disasters that cause animals to have PTS (post traumatic stress, see: http://www.nativeremedies.com/petalive/articles/how-to-handle-post-traumatic-stress-dogs.html). Because you disagree with someone, does not necessarily mean you should participate in rock throwing. It's an old evil practice that I find unimpressive and bluntly ignorant. I'm by far not perfect. Everyone has their share of problems. Ultimately, my goal is to help others, not to dispute over how to do so. Lastly, helping those with exceptional skills in turning them to further progress is a great idea- fee waivers for low-income street vendors, anyone?
dorthy manser December 07, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Chris, forgive me. Please remind me of a constructive idea that you have provided. Mine was to simply give them money, without judging them, and asking them to leave as a string. Probably stupid and unworkable, granted, but far cheeper, and far less patronizing that other suggestions. What was yours?
dorthy manser December 07, 2013 at 09:28 PM
And Joker, thanks! I don't think I agree with some of what you said, but I appreciate how much thought and caring you put into this issue. It sounds to me like you want to actually work on this problem constructively. And I do agree that those that are serviced the various government agencies end up feeling over-burdened with red tape and rules that may actually hinder the effort to help them. At the same time, I think that many activists, in their efforts to help the homeless actually disadvantage them by making them think of themselves as helpless victims who can't possibly improve their situation unless the government is forced to do it for them. Do you think that is totally wrong?
Joker Presents December 07, 2013 at 09:34 PM
The government patronizes people very persistently. If raising more funding for support isn't the answer. Maybe, it's time to re-adjust how the government funds items. Seemingly this is easily appropriate considering the decades of financial cuts to homeless funding, affordable housing, etc.
Joker Presents December 07, 2013 at 09:38 PM
It's my pleasure, and thank you! I feel as if I'm not knowledgeable enough in that area to comment. But, thank you for seeking my opinion.
thorn December 09, 2013 at 03:45 AM
Rochelle deserves a second round of appreciation for amazing professionalism on top of the information provided in these discussions// I nearly sink to the anarchists level myself more often than not, she just keep plugging away with the deadpan facts, actually trying to get these folks help while i would just as soon toss them into the Bay.. This is a good lawyer.
Pilcher Hake December 09, 2013 at 04:40 AM
Part of me feels sorry for them, part of me things it would be fun to live out there. Part of me fears I may end up out there whether I like it or not. Part of me relishes the time when I will be able to go tearing through there on my bike without having them and their dogs around (though the only dogs that have attacked me there did not belong to the squatters.) Part of me is appalled by the cost. If I were one of the squatters I certainly would not want to move into the trailers, what to do during the day, it’s could, I would rather be at my home however humble. I think the trailers are there to make the judge happy more than anything else (though that is kind of cynical to think.) I don’t think that all parties really understand one another and it could get ugly and expensive. I could not myself think of what to do so I Googled “how to get rid of a homeless encampment” and read some scholarly papers on the subject. How about a compromise? Let them live on part of the bulb perhaps 5% to 10% would be enough, not in the prime spots and out of sight. Set up some rules provide some services. Put up a fence that the dogs say behind. I think part of the attraction is having space around them and some may be a mentally ill in ways that makes this preferable to living in the shelter or even an apartment so this might not be good either. It may sound a little crazy but it has worked in other places. Look up Dignity Village on Wikipedia and see what you all think. The villagers get their park back, the squatters get to live in free, We don’t get 600 more squatters and it does not cost $10k each. It is not really the traditional approach of providing housing but it may be what they would prefer. Dignity Village does not look perfect but perhaps it is worth a try if the current approach fails.
Brian Parker December 09, 2013 at 02:55 PM
The City Council knows about the Dignity Village concept and decided against pursuing it. The issues of conversion of park land to private usage, no water or sewage availability on the Bulb and growth of the encampment are all unresolved by Dignity Village.

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