A year ago, yesterday, I exited the New York City homeless shelter system. Being in the homeless shelter system was a life-changing experience for me. The New York City homeless shelter system seems to have a lot of similarities with the prison system. People who are in the homeless shelter system for a bevy of reasons, including upstanding citizens who have fell victim to New York City’s vicious cycle of gentrification, are treated like inmates; basically, dehumanized and “institutionalized.”
It’s a process to mentally, emotionally, and physically shake off the despicable trauma of the NYC homeless shelter system. When I read Wu Tang Klan’s U-God’s memoir, a passage in the tome regarding adjusting to life after incarceration reminded me of adjusting to life after being homeless.
In his book, “Raw: My Journey Into The Wu-Tang,” U-God states: “You need about the same amount of time back in the world as you served in jail. If you did three years inside, you’re gonna need three years outside to get your head on straight. You have to catch up with the world that’s kept moving on while you’ve been separated from it. You aren’t just gonna walk out the gate and pick up your life right where you left off. You gotta readjust yourself, reestablish your routines, and above all, get used to the freedom of not being locked up, because that’s one of the biggest things every convict has to overcome.”
Despite the traumatic and extremely negative experiences I had in the NYC homeless shelter system, I appreciate what I learned and experienced there. My experiences in that system armed me with a effective and potent tool for helping others. I will never forget what I experienced, and I will not stop speaking out about it until things are changed, and greater numbers of people are helped.
To commemorate my anniversary, I have set some new personal goals. Me and my husband will also go to a shelter this weekend and give back, directly, to the people.
Lots of Love,
-The Homeless New Yorker
CLICK HERE for an overview, and first blog post, regarding my family’s pending “administrative transfer.” Please read this post first for a more comprehensive understanding of this situation.
Although my family was supposed to be forcibly moved from our shelter, without our consent, on November 18th; we have yet to be moved from our current shelter. However, the move is still pending.
Since the last time I addressed this issue on this blog, I have met with the director of my shelter regarding our forced, unexplained pending move. During the meeting, she did not give me any definitive answers as to where my family would be moved to or why. The only vague, raison d’etre she gave me for the sudden, unexpected pending move was that I had expressed “concerns” and “wrote letters.” She tried to guard her speech by constantly answering my queries with refrains of: “I don’t know,” and “I wouldn’t say that,” and “That’s the system.” However, she did make some puzzling statements when she wasn’t dodging basic questions that she should have provided answers to. (I’ll discuss that more in a later post.)
On Monday, November 28, 2016, my know-no-details case worker and a security guard came to my door with another Notice of Administrative Transfer that they wanted me to sign. The notice said that my family would be moved the next day. Specifically, it stated that: “As of 11/29/16” my family would not “be permitted to remain in [our] current shelter…Instead, you will be required to report to your new shelter placement once it’s identified.” How can you purport to move someone in 24 hours in one sentence, and in the very next sentence make a statement that conveys that the location of the move has not been identified? Who would sign a document that says that you would allow someone to move you someplace they haven’t even identified to you, or their precise reason for doing so? Who would sign a document that would give consent to being moved to a place of undetermined conditions? (Note: Several shelter administrators, including my shelter’s director has told me that they can move my family without our consent, even though there is no wrongdoing on our part; and without giving us pertinent details beforehand…”That’s the system.”)
The red tape keeps thickening.
To be continued…
Chattel slavery involved the restricted and forced movement of slaves. By definition, a slave, “a person who is the legal property of another, and [who] is forced to obey them,” moves where their “owner” tells them to. After all, legally, ownership is characterized by possession, both active and constructive. One who legally possesses something or someone can move that person or item as they see fit.
Being a resident in the New York City homeless shelter system has brought to light the stark reality that I am viewed as a slave: A person identified and addressed by their room number; A person whose protestations of improprieties are disdained and looked upon as uppity outcries to be ignored; A person who is not entitled to question the rules and regulations they are subjected to, no matter how unreasonable those mandates are; A person whose movements are grossly restricted; a person who is told when and where they can have food; A person who can be summoned and scheduled at administrators’ whims; A person who can be moved without granting consent.
Yesterday, my case worker and a security supervisor knocked on my door to deliver a document they wanted my family to sign. The document stated that we would be moved to a new shelter and would “not be permitted to remain in [our] current shelter.” The document also stated: “You will be required to report to your new shelter placement once it’s identified. You and all family members must be present and ready to leave your current shelter placement by 11/18/2016.” The letter failed to state the raison d’etre for our unexpected, mandated move.
We do not, and have never, participated in any criminal activity, drug or alcohol use, or any other negative activity or interaction that would warrant such a sudden, unconsented displacement. We are law-abiding citizens with careers that require that we have pristine behaviors and backgrounds.
We are also people who have formally, via a bevy of written and verbal communications, spoken out about the lack of, and poor quality of, services we have received as shelter residents. We started out appealing to shelter and Department of Homeless Services (DHS) administrators. When our appeals were ignored, we reached out to elected officials and community leaders. Pleasantly, we have received some great feedback from the latter; while disappointedly, we have been ignored and castigated by the former.
Now, we are supposedly being shipped away without our consent in less than 48 hours. Who else is subjected to such treatment except slaves and prisoners?
When my case worker and the security supervisor knocked on my door yesterday with the aforementioned displacement document from the New York City Department of Homeless Services, they could not explain why we were being moved or where we were being moved to. My case worker answered my inquiries requesting that information with the response that she was just “the messenger.” Clearly, she was a messenger with an incomplete message.
Being that we were not given the full story regarding this unexpected proposed move, we reasonably refused to sign the document. We were then told by the shelter’s administrators that we would be moved whether we signed the document or not. I found that incredulous because printed right above the endorsement section of the document was the statement, “I have agreed to transfer from my current placement.” Our refusal to sign the document was a denial of making such an agreement. Still, we were told we would be moved without our consent.
Even more appalling is the fact that this document came from DHS administrators who failed to show up for multiple meetings they have scheduled with us. (There are several memorandums that prove this.) We have also sent several unresponded certified letters to these administrators over the past few months wishing to address their failure to attend meetings, and various other serious administrative issues. So why the sudden, out-of-the-blue, unconsented, forced move?
Is this some kind of gross error? Is this retaliation for speaking out? Is this retaliation for connecting with community members who have expressed great displeasure with the shelter’s management? Why are we being told that we will be forced to move to another shelter instead of receiving the housing assistance we have continually requested? So many unanswered questions!
This sudden, threatened upheaval is yet another unwarranted threat to my family’s well-being.
To be continued.
-The Homeless New Yorker
I started this website after I entered the New York City homeless shelter system due to my family’s housing issues. Early on in my residency in NYC shelters, I experienced administrative red tape that created debilitating obstacles that threatened my employment, my physical health, my ability to secure housing, and a slew of other life-sustaining factors.
My red-tape experiences were the catalyst for the creation of this site. I felt it was necessary to create an outlet that would allow me to express exactly what I was going through as a homeless person in New York City.
Upon creating this website, it was my intention to remain completely anonymous on this online vehicle. However, as I began to speak out online and contact Department of Homeless Services administrators, via my online handle, regarding the issues I was experiencing in the shelter system, I was coaxed into revealing my identity to various online liaisons under the guise that they were seeking to address my issues, and rectify the problems I was facing. In good faith, I revealed my identity to them. I wish I could tell you that my issues with the shelter system’s level of competency and red tape has been properly addressed and solved. However, as of today, I emphatically cannot!
Despite writing several letters detailing how administrative protocols and incompetency are adversely affecting me and hindering me from securing proper housing, I am still in the same red-tape boat; only now my identity as the Homeless New Yorker is known to certain departmental members/units in the Department of Homeless Services.
I will still continue to speak out on this website. I have a slew of information and firsthand experiences that I will continue to share in the hopes that we can collectively make this system better. Our lives depend on it.
Love, Peace & Humanity,
Homeless New Yorker