With Albany looking to clear a bayshore homeless encampment, residents brace for a conflict
"I was out... talking to people and was overwhelmed by the fragility and vulnerability of many of them, as well as their strengths," Neumann said of the residents in an email to the Guardian. "The portables are awful. You look at the Bulb and all the life and beauty that's out there, and then you look at those anonymous utilitarian boxes, and really you expect it all to be stuffed into those containers? 22 men in one, eight women in the other? It's all really appalling." According to the shelter's posted rules, the doors for the shelter open at 5:30pm and close at 8:30am. Showers may be taken 8:30-9:30pm, and breakfast is served 7-8am. The sexes are separated, and pets must stay in kennels outside of the shelter. There are also no "in and out privileges" and if a person doesn't return by 8pm they are not admitted into the shelter. No one stayed in the shelter the first three nights it was available, according to city reports. Amber Lynn Whitson, a Bulb resident, said that access to the shelter is difficult for people, and doesn't address the need for people with disabilities to access a bed during the day. "At least two individuals were turned away at the door to the shelter, due to their names not being on 'the list', she said in an email. "Both were told that they could stay in the shelter, despite their names not currently being on 'the list,' but only after getting 'a voucher' from BFHP." The transitional shelter came to the residents' lives after Breyer rejected the campers' request for an injunction to block the eviction with a temporary restraining order. A lawsuit also filed by the residents against the eviction remains open, according to Neumann.
Based on information obtained in court documents, $570,000 was allocated to remove the Bulb residents, based on a Albany City Council decision made on Oct. 21, with $171,000 spent on the cleanup of the campsites and the remainder spent on the two portable trailers with bunk beds to serve as transitional housing for six months. As of now, the shelter's efficacy to get the campers off the Bulb, as well as the residents' efforts to resist the transition, remains unclear.
BULB ART TO BE CLEARED
The Albany Bulb, a wild shoreline space near Golden Gate Fields and a former landfill for BART construction and other industries, is well known for its art. Now that a transitional shelter looms over the entrance as part of the city's plan to remove the residents from the Bulb, campers, activists, and artists came together this past weekend for a festival of resistance against the eviction.
The rubble and sculpture filled space will soon be transformed into part of the Eastshore State Park system. The event drew around 60 people, according to resident Amber Whitson. She led an art walk on Nov. 29, giving the history of the art at the Bulb and explaining why it's important to preserve it as a cultural resource.
"Some things should remain sacred, and Sniff paintings are out on the Albany Bulb," she said, referencing works by a group of Oakland-based artists.
Other prominent Bulb artists, such as Osha Neumann and Jason DeAntonis, who built massive sculptures made of found wood and parts along the shoreline, were on hand to speak about their contributions and the personal significance the Bulb holds for them.
While residents have come and gone throughout the years, the art has remained a constant draw. Graffiti artists practice their craft, and sculptors work undisturbed, using debris that is scattered around. Even some of the campers' shelters, makeshift shanties of concrete, wood and tarp, could be considered artistic.
Once the transition of the Bulb from untamed outcrop to a state park of well-kept trails is further along, the city plans to remove most of the art currently installed there.
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