Albany Bulb dwellers speak out on temporary shelter arrangement

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The ongoing eviction saga at the Albany Bulb, which the Guardian has covered extensively in recent weeks, previously hinged on a debate around conflicting ideas over what was considered appropriate use for a waterfront park.

Environmentalists and others wanted encampments cleared so the Bulb could be a strictly recreational area, while longtime Bulb dwellers fought to stay on the waterfront land, which offered them a safe harbor where they could live peacefully in D.I.Y. spaces cobbled together with whatever materials they could find.

Now that the city has gotten the green light to move forward with clearing homeless residents’ camps, however, the ongoing saga is shaping up to be a study in how a city ought to deal with a newly uprooted population that has been, or is about to be, forcibly removed from self-styled dwellings that were at least safe and stable, if technically illegal and unconventional.

The city of Albany, working with a group called Operation Dignity, has installed temporary shelters at the Bulb that will remain there for six months. However, that approach has prompted the 49 organized homeless residents to issue a press release essentially condemning the arrangement as inadequate, dehumanizing, and ultimately ineffective at addressing homelessness.

In a press release issued today by Share the Bulb, a group of residents and supporters who’ve sought to defend their right to stay, residents described conditions in the newly installed shelters as prison-like, and labeled them “internment trailers.”

The Guardian was unable to reach the city of Albany or representatives from Operation Dignity for a response to the Bulb dweller’s complaints. But here’s an excerpt from Share the Bulb's public statement:

“There are 49 current residents at the Bulb, but the internment trailers have room for only thirty people, stacked on top of each other in bunk beds. The trailers will only be open for six months. After that six-month period, Bulb residents who haven’t found housing elsewhere will be forced onto the streets of Albany or surrounding municipalities…

“The trailers open each day at 5:30pm and participants must be inside by 8pm, after which they are not permitted to step outside the trailers. Participants must then be out by 8:30am, without access to the facilities throughout the day…

“The rules also prohibit sexual interaction between participants and require gender separation, even for intimate partners who currently live together on the Bulb. One such couple has been together for 32 years.

“There are a total of four kennels for dogs of shelter participants, which is insufficient for the twenty dogs Bulb residents own. There are no accommodations for cats, effectively excluding the seven ESAs which are cats, and their owners.”

Uncomfortable as these conditions may be in comparison with what residents had built and settled into for years, the shelters are merely a temporary measure. The ultimate question is whether or not these individuals will succeed in finding housing once the camps have all been cleared, and the shelters cease to be an option.

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