Holiday Cheer: Homeless Services Style

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Leave it up to Homeless Services to deliver befuddlement and confusion for the holiday season.

On Friday, December 23, 2016, I received a voicemail message from a Department of Homeless Services (DHS) representative stating she was calling in regards to my requested shelter transfer. I NEVER MADE SUCH A REQUEST.
While I can think of a few scenarios where a person might reasonably make such a request; for the most part, I would find such a request preposterous. The aim is to exit out of the homeless shelter system; not to be bounced around it from shelter-to-shelter like a ping pong.

What I have asked DHS for is tangible housing help. There still has not been an effective response from them in that regard. However, I did receive that two-days-before-Christmas voicemail that left me scratching my head. The DHS representative, who didn’t leave her name, sounded disoriented and incompetent. She left a call back number that had an area code and six digits. I could also hear that she was being coached in the background.

I’m not sure where/why/how DHS got the idea that I was asking for a transfer. What I do find revelatory about this latest DHS debacle is that the voicemail is proof that the Department of Homeless Services is capable of reaching out to clients requests; although this one happens to be erroneous.

The acerbic twist of irony is that, for months, to no avail, I have reached out to the Department of Homeless Services via letters sent by certified mail (my preferred mode of communication with DHS, in hopes that it mitigates misunderstandings) regarding a slew of serious issues, such as: Their consistently scheduled and canceled case conferences that resulted in loss of income for my family; housing search assistance; and being transferred from our previous shelter without our request or consent, and without providing us with adequate information or fair notice. (If you’ve been following this blog, you know that DHS recently transferred me from my previous shelter in a manner akin to transferring a chattel slave or a prisoner. CLICK HERE for a blog post detailing that fiasco.) What made the Department of Homeless Services respond to the one inquiry I never made? Strange!!

I’ve spent this week, the last week of 2016, assuring my new shelter’s administrators that I didn’t request a transfer; as DHS had notified them that I allegedly wanted to be transferred. I also spent yesterday composing and sending a letter to DHS regarding this puzzling situation. Hopefully DHS will break their tradition and actually respond to my letter.

Between the chattel-like shelter transfer that occurred during the Thanksgiving season, the inexplicable voicemail I received during the Christmas season, and having to assure my shelter administrators that I did not request a transfer a few days before New Year’s; DHS has officially become my holiday Grinch.

-The HMLS New Yorker

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When You Reside In A Shelter That is So Noisy You Can’t Make a Phone Call

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For the majority of 2016, I resided in a shelter that had so much loud, inappropriate, background noise, I couldn’t make or receive a phone call there. I was better off trying to make a phone call outdoors, while trying to overtalk the sounds of background traffic, than I was to attempt to talk on the phone in the shelter facility.

At any given time of the day or night, my room was overtaken with the sounds of: Arguments over debts; domestic arguments and violence; arguments and violence over heroin, crack, missing money; people running from room to room loudly looking for food, video game controllers, other people, et cetera; intercom announcements announcing lunch, dinner, breakfast, case worker meetings, frequent fire drills, et cetera; case workers yelling “room check,” for their weekly room checks; blasting music; and almost anything else you can imagine. The irony is that the shelter had residents sign a “Good Neighbor Policy” which they never enforced.

How can you possibly communicate with realtors, employers, clients, or anyone else for that matter, via telephone, in such an environment? Impossible! SMH!
I’m currently in a shelter that is much, much, much better managed! The environment is an LOT quieter. I’ve been able to contact dozens of realtors since I’ve been here. The lack of inappropriate background noise and violent tension has been a vast improvement compared to the conditions that I have lived under for the majority of 2016.

I’m hoping to find housing soon!!

-The Homeless New Yorker

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Exorbitantly Priced Hotel Rooms Reportedly Serving As Homeless Shelters

HMLS New Yorker

A report recently released by the city’s comptroller, Scott Stringer, states that thousands of homeless people are currently being sheltered in hotel rooms.

According to NY1, “The Comptroller says the Department of Homeless Services is using hotel rooms to shelter nearly 6,000 homeless people, compared with just over 300 last year.” The Comptroller reportedly estimates a daily cost for the hotel lodgings at $400,000. Some of the hotel bookings are said to cost several hundred dollars for a single night.

The aforementioned tabulations makes one wonder why cheaper alternatives haven’t been implemented or explored. While it’s a positive that the City is aspiring to shelter the homeless, why isn’t the City taking this money and using it to build more public housing? With the high amounts of money being spent to purportedly eradicate a homeless problem that keep exponentially increasing, what is being done to intelligently earmark funds into programs that actually work? Why is this situation so grossly mismanaged? How much of this problem stems from the City’s current administration, and how much is inherited? Is someone’s “hands in the cookie jar”?

As someone who has personally spent an inordinate amount of time trying to navigate their way through the suffocating red tape of the shelter system to affordable housing, I can tell you firsthand that the housing “help” offered by the shelter system is less than zero; meaning, their version of “help” will have you spinning your wheels and wasting valuable time and money.

I don’t understand how billions of dollars can be spent on an issue to no avail. Where are the experts who can help to better this system? Why is more money being spent while the system is getting worse? Who is the brain trust regarding this issue?

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Steve Harvey On Being Homeless

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“I sat down and started crying, but a voice said, ‘If you keep going, I’m going to take you places you’ve never been. It was like God said, ‘Don’t quit, you’re almost there.’…I’m running from homelessness. I can’t ever be in that position again…In every single moment of adversity in your life, two things are going to happen: There’s going to be a lesson and there’s going to be a blessing. If you let the adversity crumble you, you will lay there and wallow in the failure, but life is 10 percent what happened and 90 percent what you’re going to do about it.” -Steve Harvey

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The Federal Definition Of Affordable Housing

HMLS New Yorker

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development defines affordable housing as follows: “In general, housing for which the occupant(s) is/are paying no more than 30 percent of his or her income for gross housing costs, including utilities.”

The speaker at the affordable housing seminar I went to yesterday said that most New Yorkers pay over 60% of their income for rent.

If you spend more than 30% of your income on rent, you are said to be “overburdened.”

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