ALBANY -- The process of connecting homeless residents of the Albany Bulb with social services with the hopes of getting them off the street is an ongoing process, according to people involved in the work.

The City Council will get an update on the outreach at its first meeting following the summer break on Sept. 3.

Looming in the background is a prior council vote to begin enforcing the city's no camping ordinance on the Bulb starting in October.

Plans to turn the Bulb over to the East Bay Regional Park District are dependent upon the city addressing the homeless issue.

Terrie Light, executive director of the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, said she has at least two staff members on the Bulb a minimum of two days a week. The outreach faces several challenges, not the least of which is the fact that nobody is exactly sure how many people are living on the Bulb.

Light said her organization, which has a contract with the city to provide the outreach, has done an initial assessment on about 25 people. She said initial reports were that the population on the Bulb was between 30-35 people.

"Now we're hearing that there might be more people out there but they don't want to talk to people," she said.


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Albany City Clerk Nicole Almaguer described the outreach as "an ongoing process," saying, "BHFP recently mobilized and they're making relationships with folks on the Bulb. They have some valid resources right now but they're time-sensitive. We also have a staff person at City Hall that has been doing supplemental outreach in the area to take advantage of the opportunity that the nonprofit is offering."

BFHP is working with Solano Community Church on the project. Light said they are using what is known as a "housing-first" model, meaning that once people are housed, they can address any other issues that may be connected to homelessness, such as unemployment or substance-abuse issues.

"Housing stabilizes people, and if they need help with other stuff, they can get help once they're indoors," she said.

Light said about 15 people have been entered into an Alameda County database, which makes them eligible for a grant program for housing. About five have actually applied. The grant is through the county but comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"That money is time-limited, it's dollar-limited," Light said. "This is a one-time grant with a limited amount of money and when it's gone, it's gone, so we wanted to get people moving."

BFHP is also working to find landlords willing to rent to grant recipients. The organization provides transportation for appointments, both related to housing and for other things, such as getting an ID card at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

However, the process of connecting people to the grant can go slowly.

And the transition is rarely smooth, in part because "human beings don't like change" and prefer what they are familiar with, Light said.

"Moving indoors after living outside for a long period of time, when we got to the point of them moving, they backed out," she said, citing "Fear of unknown, fear of change, I don't know precisely. This could take a while."

Light added that people who are more recently homeless sometimes are easier to place than those who have been homeless long-term.

The City Council could decide to eventually delay enforcement of the camping ordinance or keep plans for enforcement beginning in October. A delay in the enforcement could further delay turning the area into a park, which has already been a decades-long process. However, it's not clear that a significant number of homeless people will have been housed by then.

Learn more
For homeless outreach and engagement information, contact Carmen Francois at 510-684-0536 or Jo Ferlatte at 510-684-0540. They are at the Bulb from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday