California City Kicks Homeless People Out of Longtime Dwelling

Written by Scott Keyes

For years, dozens of poor California residents have set up camp on a landfill in the San Francisco Bay, creating their own small tent community where they could rest their heads in peace.

That is, until the eviction notice came this week.

On Tuesday, the City Council of Albany, a city just north of Berkeley, voted 4-1 to begin enforcing an anti-camping ordinance on the Albany Bulb, a small offshoot in the San Francisco Bay that 61 people call home. Police will start enforcing the measure on October 1.

Though the City Council appropriated $30,000 to help Bulb residents find permanent supportive housing in the area, none exists in Albany. “There’s no public housing in Albany, no available low-income housing, not even a homeless shelter,” Bob Offer-Westort, a volunteer with the advocacy organization Share the Bulb. “There are no homeless services, period, in Albany.” Tuesday’s vote, in essence, won’t just kick the Bulb community out of their home; it will kick them out of the city as well.

The vote came amid protests from Bulb residents and their supporters, who marched to City Hall in protest of the proposed plan. The council had first moved to evict Bulb residents in May, a move they reaffirmed this week.

The city plans to transform the space into part of the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, which stretches along the bay all the way down to Oakland.

For years, homeless people in the area had been told by authorities to go set up camp on the jetty. When police found homeless people living on the streets of Albany, they would often direct them to the Bulb, since it was unused and out of sight. But soon, a community developed. “We’ve grown happy being exiles out here,” 32-year-old Amber Whitson, who has lived on the Bulb for seven years, told the San Jose Mercury News. A disproportionate number of Bulb residents are women; it’s safer to live there than on the streets.

Residents of the Bulb have built a community that stretches back to the early 1990s, immortalized in the 2003 documentary “Bums’ Paradise.” Now, with a countdown clock on their lemons-to-lemonade community, residents are left in a state of flux. “It’s hard to imagine anything, anywhere that people go will be worse than the place where they’re stable,” Offer-Westort said. “People don’t know what they’re going to do.”

Albany isn’t the only city that’s taken steps recently to ship its homeless population out of town. Columbia, SCrecently approved a measure to criminalize homelessness in its downtown area, effectively exiling homeless people to the margins of town. In addition, this year, Hawaii and Baton Rouge, LA joined a host of other localities that offer homeless people one-way tickets out of town.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Stanley R.
Stanley R4 years ago

Fund wars, fund Big Bank bailouts, fund tax breaks for billionaires, no money for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, this is why the GOP go well dressed smiling to church on Sundays

Amber Whitson
Amber Whitson4 years ago

Thank you all, for all of your kind and inspiring words. I have lived with my partner, on the Bulb, since October 31, 2006.
It is, Our Home.
To those who suggest that there should be a homeless shelter in Albany: It should be noted that Albany is currently in violation of the California Government Code that requires each city in the state to have at least one area in their town, zoned for a homeless/emergency shelter, without the need to apply for a special permit to operate said hypothetical shelter. Albany lacks such a zone.
Also, Albany only passed the camping ordinance so they could kick their homeless residents out of town in 1999. They then instructed the police to NOT enforce that ordinance, so that the homeless in Albany then went back to being out of sight and out of the way, on the Bulb. Now, that enough acreage has been flattened out and lived on (and most of it is just smoothed out, and not currently being inhabited), they want to hand the place over to the State, as if *they* had done the work, and they must kick us out to do it. I am afraid to lose my stable home.
They paid out $60,000 to some organization that refuses to house anyone who doesn't already have an income. There are 36 people, living out here, who have no income at all. And they have referred 0 Bulb residents to anywhere that could help them get an income.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G4 years ago

Another glorious example why the mighty US of A needs to focus on internal matters before they meddling in external ones!

Margaret Goodman
Margaret G4 years ago

John H. wrote, "After all this time,one would think the combined energy's,of these homeless,would have produced their own homeless shelter."

Where would this homeless shelter be located? The fact that Albany does not now have one indicates to me that Albany wants no homeless shelters. My guess is that none of the affluent San Francisco Bay Area towns want affordable housing, let alone homeless shelters.

I think that for the homeless, just being able to survive takes all their energy. Asking them to find a place to build a shelter and then to get past all the political, logistical, and economic hurdles is like asking someone who can barely stay afloat to swim the English Channel.

Read more:

Berny p.
Berny p4 years ago

I am afraid Tamara is right...even if we dont like it!

Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se4 years ago


janice b.
jan b4 years ago

Shame on the USA

Ann M.
Ann M4 years ago

"Oh, my god, we really must remove THOSE people..." To where? We talk a good game, but helping homeless people in any city has gone nowhere, because we don't really want to spend that cash on them. Some cities should talk to So Others May Eat in Washington DC about serving the homeless. SOME does a wonderful job and has managed to get DC to allow them to rehab old, abandoned apartment buildings into SROs and senior housing.

holly masih
.4 years ago

Yeah,why chase real criminals like rapists,child molesters,and other low life scum that they need to be dealing with when they can pick on homeless people.

Lynda Duke
Lynda Duke4 years ago San Francisco going to house these people, or make them suffer/punish them for being homeless. I mean, really...a landfill full of homeless people? What is San Fran thinking? Where are these people supposed to go? Come on...of all places, that won't be a problem for trash collection, you kick people out of a landfill? Goes beyond words. What are they supposed to do?