One of the greatest exhales of my life was securing housing after going through homelessness. Unfortunately, however, my relief was short-lived. My expectations and celebration was too quickly shattered when I secured a great apartment in a great neighborhood, but soon found out that my living conditions in said apartment would leave me trapped in an environment that mirrored housing shelter conditions in a very detrimental way.
My new dwelling has been plagued with a sickening, potent drug aroma that rivals the one that was ever-present in the New York City homeless shelters; the same potent drug aroma that caused me to develop smoke-related asthma.
As a newly-created asthma sufferer, thanks to the NYC shelter system, I was especially ecstatic when I secured my new apartment because all through the interview process, it was stressed to me that a no smoking and drug use policy would be strictly enforced by the building’s management. The management company’s admonitions made me believe that I was moving into a “smoke-free environment.” However, instead, I had just signed a lease for an apartment with an environment that, like the NYC homeless shelters, caused: illness, missed days of work due to illness, and the use of an inordinate amount of days to try to get the apartment’s management company to enforce the terms of the lease that barred smoking and drug use on the premises.
It took me approximately a year and a half of phone calls, letter writing, and networking to even make a dent in solving this issue. The problem was so severe that my apartment was constantly inundated with a potent drug aroma like someone was sitting on my couch doing drugs.
I found myself spending the majority of my days documenting what I was experiencing and reaching out for solutions the same way I had to when I was living under the horrifying conditions of the NYC shelter system. I am still trying to make further inroads in dealing with this toxic conundrum. I still have more work to do to ensure that I am living in a healthy, decent environment.
The last few years of my life has been a living, breathing testament to what happens when the basic necessity of shelter is lacking, contaminated, or in limbo.
A lack of decent housing has a domino effect that touches every area of a person’s life, with unexpected nuances that have to be experienced to be fully understood.
My fight for decent housing did not end when my bout with homelessness ended. I am still engaged in that battle. It is an exhausting one. I have experienced battle fatigue, but I have gathered my second wind. I will continue to share my experiences; part catharsis, part helping hand, part empowerment.
Stay strong; New York Strong.
-The Homeless New Yorker