Shelter Complaint Deterrents

Simple Logic HMLS New Yorker

Being a homeless shelter resident puts you in the precarious position of other people being in control of your living environment. If you a person who likes quiet, at any time there can be a loud outburst. For example, an argument may break out, or shelter staff may decide to make a sudden announcement over the intercom. If you are sleeping, you can be abruptly awakened by a slew of random occurrences that go on in a homeless shelter. If you are a non-smoker/non-drug user, you can be forced to be subjected to drug smoke because residents don’t respect the no-smoking rule, and shelter staff refuses to enforce it, and in some cases even encourages it. If you are a clean person, you may have to share a bathroom with unclean people, or be in a shelter where the cleaning staff, or maintenance staff, isn’t assigned to come regularly.

There are some things you are forced to grin and bear because certain things come along with living amongst an abnormally large group of strangers in close quarters. However, there are also things that go on in the homeless shelter system that cross the line to egregiousness; and therefore, cannot be ignored. When these things happen, anyone of good conscience will speak up about it. However, that is more than frowned upon in the shelter system.

In the eyes of shelter administrators, a shelter resident making a complaint seems to be akin to an inmate complaining to a warden, or a slave complaining to a master or overseer. It is clear that complaints are not welcome; and who wants to make themselves unwelcome to the very people who control their environment? It is a very risky (to say the least) thing to do in an already extremely vulnerable predicament.

If you choose to speak up, you will be confronted with deterrents that will quash any future complaints. Administrators and/or staff will feign ignorance of the existence of any problems; they will fabricate confirmations that you are making the whole issue up; they will likely attempt to provoke negative behavior/responses from the complainant so they can flip the script; they may even transfer the resident to another shelter against their will; all while the reported problem still persists because the people entrusted with coming up with solutions cash their paychecks and allow blatantly unconscionable situations to fester.

Intelligent and fair-minded administrators welcome reasonable complaints because it allows for quick trouble shooting, which helps organizations to thrive. Reasonable complaints from clients is like receiving free expert consultations.

In any business or organization, there are things that organizers and administrators can’t see that people standing at a different vantage point can clearly spot. It should be viewed as a positive when clients bring those things to the attention of administrators. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be what goes on in the NYC homeless shelter system.

When homeless shelter administrators fail to properly address problems, clients will seek solutions elsewhere. It stands to reason that anyone whose well-being is jeopardized will seek to escape that jeopardy.

By virtue of its etymology, it is ignorant to ignore that which should be attended to. Ignoring and covering-up problems only makes the situation worse. The City, in general, and the homeless shelter system, specifically, needs leaders/administrators who solve problems, not taxpayer-paid administrators who create them.

-The HMLS New Yorker

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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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The Homeless New Yorker Red Tape Quote Of The Week: The Bubble Edition

HMLS New Yorker Red Tape

“You mind as well build a bubble and put yourself in a bubble because everywhere you go you’re going to interact with weed or cigarettes because people do that in the street.” -A shelter staff member’s response to my complaint about the drug smell that constantly seeps into my room. (This response was made after the staff member refuted my claim of the constant drug smell that seeps into my room on a daily basis.)

The constant drug smell that seeps into my room, adversely affecting my health; and the total lack of housing-search help; makes me feel trapped in this ridiculously, convoluted and broken system.

The aforementioned quote, as well as a variety of other responses I received from shelter staff and administrators, regarding my experiences with the intense drug smell that constantly seeps into my room, is purportedly supposed to be a deterrent to speaking up about such things.

What I’ve experienced in the New York City shelter system conveys the message that administrators and staff would rather suppress complaints than address them.

Make a legitimate complaint and you’re bound to be: Chastised like a petulant child by an administrator via their raving phone call; shipped off like a chattel slave to another shelter without reason, or your consent; and be met with feigned incredulousness that a problem even exists. I’ve been burdened with all of the above, and more.

The fact that legitimate complaints fail to be addressed in the New York City shelter system hurts everyone. By ignoring legitimate complaints, the system opens the door for bigger problems to emerge. Neglecting warning signs is never beneficial to anyone. Unfortunately, I’m in a situation where my environment has been “managed” by people who do just this. This system compounds any problems the people within it may be experiencing. Enter the system with strictly a housing issue and you’ll be burdened with employment issues, health issues, and a bevy of other never-experienced quandaries.

SIDEBAR: I challenge any non-drug using shelter administrator, shelter staff member, or Department of Homeless Services administrator to stay in my shelter room while everyone in the shelter is carrying on as usual (i.e. not in their an-inspection-is-happening-clean-up mode), and see how long their health and well-being remains in tact. SMH!

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When The People In The Shelter Room Next Door Do Drugs With Impunity…

michael-jackson-surgical-mask

That’s me trying to avoid the drug smoke. SMH!! I’ve been more than patient waiting for this overbearing drug situation to be resolved, to no avail. Now, I’m speaking out. More on this soon!

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My Homelessness Has Been A Catalyst For…

HMLS New Yorker

Being trapped in a system riddled with ever-changing protocols, no transparency, mind-boggling incompetence, lack of expertise to solve the stated problem, scattered/inconsistent “professional” advice, and a myriad of other unfortunate euphemisms, is akin to being caught in quicksand.

So many people give up and resign their fate to a callous system because they recognize that the more they fight, the more they get stuck. Speak up about the gross negligence you experience; you’ll constantly be scheduled for case conferences that administrators never show up to, while your family loses income and jeopardizes their jobs to show up to meetings that never happen all under the duress that you’ll be kicked out of your shelter if you don’t attend. Gain momentum in connecting with the community that your shelter is located in; you’ll be transferred from your shelter without your consent, without fair warning or reason, and with inconsistent moving dates that cause more loss of income. Reach out to the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to look for solutions for what you’re experiencing, and for tangible housing help so you can get out of the system; you’ll be virtually ignored, or be given insultingly ineffective rhetoric while you spend precious time and money to send faxes and certified letters looking for reasonable answers that are never given. Reach out to DHS’s Ombudsman Unit; you’ll still receive the same insultingly ineffective rhetoric with a snappy retort that let’s you know they see you and your serious issues as an annoyance, not as a duty to fulfill their mission statement. All of the above and more has happened to me and my family.

I have reasonably went through all of the “proper” channels that supposedly exist internally in the homeless shelter system. When that was to no avail, I began to reach out to entities outside of the system to seek some type of relief or recompense. Like I stated above, once I started to gain momentum, I was shipped out of my shelter like a chattel slave or prisoner. (CLICK HERE for details on that.)

I have diligently, independently looked for affordable housing for years. Unfortunately, as a lot of New Yorkers have lamented, the city is not kind to working-class citizens. The “professionals” within the homeless system have offered me no tangible help. I have, thus far, via the advisement of homeless administrators, only been matched with realtors who have either never returned my calls, or haven’t dealt in real estate in months, have disconnected numbers, or have been out-and-out scammers. (I’ll elaborate on these experiences in the near future.)

I am now at the point where what I have been experiencing has lead me to research laws, legal precedents, and a bevy of other things that relate to my current housing situation. Also, towards the end of last year, I began to once again attend community council meetings; a practice I participated in for years until my schedule disallowed it.

Based on my experience thus far, I believe that in order to solve the problem of my homelessness, I must delve deeper into the raison d’être for its existence. I must also get familiar with the policies that relate to homelessness. This is tough to do when there is a lack of transparency, and so much confusion, in the housing system. However, I will continue to push forward.

It is shameful that a person has to navigate such waters via such a circuitous route in order to get a basic life necessity, but I will continue to do so to the best of my ability. You have to have the skills of a CEO and the sleep patterns of an elephant to navigate this system. SMH!

Stay tuned. I will share what I am learning.

-The HMLS New Yorker

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Holiday Cheer: Homeless Services Style

grinch-at-christmas

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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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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