“By choosing to hang on to one’s corner of freedom even in the worst situations, we can process our world with the energy of appreciation and beauty, and create an opportunity to transcend our circumstances.” -Wayne Dyer
“Room INSERT ROOM NUMBER.”
A majority of the staff in the shelter address the shelter residents by their room number as a form of direct address; Just like prisoners being addressed by their jail identification number. That speaks volumes about the intentions and conditions of the homeless shelter system.
“Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.” -William Arthur Ward
No one should blame, or negatively judge, a person who breaks under pressure. However, remember that old adage, “success is the best revenge.” Hold on the best you can, and then excel! I’m cheering on all of the brave souls who confront their adversities regardless of the results.
I wonder what would happen if Undercover Boss did an episode in one of New York City’s homeless shelters. I wonder who among the shelter system executive officers/administrators could survive a month or two in their own shelter.
How safe would they feel?
How frazzled would they feel after attempting to navigate the shelter system’s red tape?
Would they be able to keep up with the demands of all of the shelter’s protocols and still get to work everyday?
ME: We need housing help.
PUBLIC ASSISTANCE CASE WORKER: You have to apply for the total package, including medical benefits, food benefits, and cash benefits.
ME: We are working people, and we don’t want to become dependent on the system. We don’t want or need medical benefits, food benefits, or cash assistance. We just need housing help.
PA CASE WORKER: You still have to apply for everything.
5 Minutes later when we question some of the protocols the public assistance case worker tells us about:
PA CASE WORKER: The system is set up that way because so many people scam the system.
ME: But we’re telling you we don’t need or want the benefits that you’re forcing us to apply for; that we just need housing help. How can the system complain about scammers and at the same time force people to apply for benefits they tell you they don’t need.
PA CASE WORKER: *Blank Stare* (Cannot answer the question).
This aforementioned scenario played out three times with three different public assistance case workers. My family was forced to go through the public assistance application process three different times in four months due to the failure of various entities/agencies involved in the application process to properly process/file the correct forms, among other improprieties.
Last week, upon entering the shelter where I currently reside, my family and I were informed that a new shelter policy had taken effect, allegedly effective 20 minutes prior to our arrival. The new rule states that we are no longer allowed to have ANY food and beverages in the facility. This new mandate also includes bottled water.
Due to the sudden rule change regarding food and beverages, my family was forced to exit the facility with the sandwiches we had bought to eat for the day. The sudden implementation of the new rule meant that we had to throw out half of our meal because we were not able to consume it in one sitting.
I can’t help but ask myself for the raison d’etre for the new rule. I don’t think the rule has been implemented in order to keep the facility clean. The rule exempts people who have “medical clearance.” A bevy of residents have come and gone in and out of the facility with food since the new rule has been announced. (I guess a lot of the residents have “medical clearance.”) Also, I have still seen food and food containers that have been thrown away in the bathroom garbage receptacles since the mandate has been put into effect.
The oppressive nature of the rule, which disallows me and my family from even having bottled water, will cause quite a change to our dietary practices. We are a family that has a “water quota.” We try to drink a certain amount of water on a daily basis. We periodically sip water throughout our waking hours. We also periodically snack on fruits and vegetables. It’s our way of trying to combat the unhealthy lifestyle that can come along with homelessness. My shelter’s new mandate seriously reverses our efforts. Here is yet another incident that makes us feel like we are inmates in a prison.
-The Homeless New Yorker
According to an August 21, 2016 New York Daily News article, this year, the calls made to New York City’s complaint line, 311, regarding grievances from New York City’s homeless shelter residents has had an approximately 50% increase from the same time last year. The article states that 10,500 such calls have already been made to 311 thus far in 2016. The voluminous amount of complaints seems to be a challenge for the hotline to manage.
Interviews by the Daily News with New York City homeless shelter residents garnered the feedback that shelter residents’ 311 grievances are going unheard and unresolved. A shelter resident stated that a bevy of women who reside in the same shelter with her have called 311 seeking help and relief from unsavory shelter conditions, but it has been to no avail. The source states that the residents of her shelter are treated like dogs and inmates.
The question remains: What is the best way for New York City’s homeless shelter residents to get their grievance heard AND resolved?