Should Every Homeless Person Subpoena Their DHS File?

HMLS New Yorker

A recent case conference with shelter administrators was the catalyst for me going through the proper channels to file to procure my Department of Homeless Services (DHS) file.

The aforementioned case conference was chock-full of notable occurrences; each of which deserve their own, separate blog posts. However, I was moved to subpoena my DHS case file when my shelter’s director erroneously proclaimed that I had been offered “several housing placements.” This proclamation was made by the director when I requested housing-search assistance. (Note, as of today, I have been in the New York City homeless shelter system for 403 days. I have yet to receive any tangible housing help.)

The director confusingly rebuffed my request for help with her erroneous statement, within minutes of declaring that she was there to help me. This quick turnaround only reveals a hint of how ridiculously egregious the things that I experienced during this meeting was.

Over 2 ½ months after several case conferences were scheduled and canceled, due to the shelter director’s failure to appear, I finally met her face-to-face, for the first time, during this case conference. She was so hostile and unprofessional, I chose to excuse myself from the meeting rather than endure her bullying. Needless to say, she didn’t provide me with any housing-search help. However, she did provide me with motivation to immediately file to receive a copy of my Department of Homeless Services file.

Residents of homeless shelters should be familiar with what administrators are putting in their files, especially since the contents of their files are likely to have a direct effect on how they will be treated by shelter administrators. Residents should also have knowledge of the contents of their files so they can properly dispute any false information that is placed in it.

Be aware that shelter administrators may deem what is contained in your file as “fact.” This was the response that was made to me to me when I told my shelter’s director that I did not receive any housing placements. She claimed to have studied my file, and said that her statement was a “fact.” It should be noted that I have been in the shelter she directs for over 4 months and, thus far, I have never been offered any housing placements while I’ve been there. Therefore, I presume she’s taking as “fact” what another administrator at another shelter wrote in my file; presuming my file actually says I’ve been offered housing placements.

My experience should be used as an impetus for all shelter residents to obtain their files, go over it with a fine-toothed comb, and dispute any discrepancies.

-The Homeless New Yorker


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