What ALL NYC Homeless Shelter Residents MUST Do (This Is A Necessity)

HMLS New Yorker

All New York City homeless shelter residents should keep a THOROUGH journal/accounting of EVERYTHING that goes on during their residency in a shelter. This includes times, dates, names, descriptions of events, any communications with administrators, sign-in and sign-out times, housing-search efforts, and ANYTHING else that is relevant to your shelter situation. Be sure to make back-ups in a variety of formats, and store them for safe-keeping. If you follow this advice, you will thank me later!

Secondly, homeless shelter residents should subpoena a copy of their Department of Homeless Services (DHS) files from DHS. Carefully review your files and compare them to your accurate accounting and chronicling of events. You MUST know what is being written in your file, and what may be purposely omitted from your DHS file. This is extremely important because in most cases, as a homeless shelter resident, shelter and DHS administrators treat you in accordance with what is written in your file.

I have come into contact with shelter administrators who regard what is written in residents’ DHS files as gospel. Due to the gravity that is associated with these files, residents MUST be equipped with the knowledge of what they contain.

-The Homeless New Yorker

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Where Is My Department Of Homeless Services (DHS) File?

Over five weeks ago, I had an attorney file a release request for my Department of Homeless Services (DHS) file. (CLICK HERE to see what prompted me to subpoena my file.) I still don’t have it.

What is taking so long? Is this the norm? Where is my file?

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A Day In The Life Of A NYC Homeless Shelter Resident: May 4, 2017

HMLS New Yorker

[PLEASE NOTE: I WILL PERIODICALLY UPDATE THIS POST UNTIL 12 MIDNIGHT 5/5/17.]
1:30 AM: A strong drug smell woke me and my husband up, out of our sleep. (It took me about 20 minutes to fall back asleep again.)

2:36 AM: Awakened by someone using the sink in the hallway. (The shelter that I’m in has a “community” sink in the hallway for the residents to use. Some residents choose to use the sink at odd hours of the night. It’s one of those nuisances that you have to deal with when you live abnormally stacked on top of strangers.

4:45 AM: Wrote out today’s to do list. It is quite extensive. Unfortunately, a majority of the tasks have to do with unraveling homeless-related red tape. SMH! I also organized my housing/shelter related paperwork.

5:38 AM: A strong cigarette smoke smell starts to filter into my shelter room.

5:40 AM: I start to straighten up my shelter room, and I get prepared to start my day.

5:57 AM: The strong cigarette smell has not abated. Some minutes later, a drug aroma is added to the smoke aroma. I grab my tea tree oil for some quick aroma therapy. (The overwhelming drug/smoke smell from last night and this morning doesn’t have me feeling my physical best; another side effect of living in the shelter system. However, the show must go on, so to speak.)

• Since I woke up to start my day, until the time I sign out to leave the facility, I can hear people who reside in close proximity to me smoking and choking. Unfortunately, it is a common soundbite.

• I write the blog posts I want to post when I get to some Wi-Fi later on.

• Write out some of the occurrences of the past two days. (It’s quite a time-consuming endeavor, but it must be done. When being homeless, and otherwise, it’s beneficial to be able to say who you spoke to, regarding what, and at what time. Due to the eventfulness of the past two days, this task will take up a chunk of time today. I’ll do it periodically throughout the day. Being organized always pays off, so the time spent will be worth it.)

• Stop by a couple of discount stores to look for a sturdy tote bag. (For me, being homeless means carrying around a lot of stuff. A sturdy bag that can survive my day-to-day is not easy to come by. I’m always on a mission to find the perfect bag. Maybe it’s because I’m homeless; Maybe it’s because I’m a woman. Lol.

• I recently got invited to a co-worker’s event that takes place today. I think about how I would really like to attend. However, the event starts at about 8 PM, and as a resident of the shelter I’m in, I have a 9 PM curfew.

Late Morning: I grab a bagel and a tea. This will have to hold me until I get a better meal later.

• Contacted the management company that manages the NYCHA complex I’m on the waiting list for to update them on my recent interactions with NYCHA.

• Applied for two housing complexes.

• Received a call from the attorney who subpoenaed my DHS file for me. We’re still waiting for the file, even though it was requested over a month ago.

In the 4 o’clock hour: Grabbed some food and returned to the facility. The shelter smells like someone mopped the halls with a dirty mop. (That’s another annoyance of living in a space that you have no control over; everybody’s clean is not your clean.)

• I was able to sleep for a few consecutive hours in the evening, after barely getting any sleep the night before. However, I had to wake up before 9 PM to sign the bed sheet. (A daily protocol is to sign the Department of Homeless Service’s bed sheet before 9 PM. You have to wait until the facility prints it, which is usually sometime in the late afternoon or early evening. However, sometimes the system is down and the sheet becomes available after 9 PM, or a day later.)

11:32 PM: Cigarette smoke smell begins to waft into my room. It’s a pretty cold night for the month of May, but I open the window to let some fresh air in. The smell is not as potent as last night’s overwhelming drug fumes.

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Does Your Shelter Have A Housing Specialist?

HMLS New Yorker

According to more than one source I’ve spoken with, every New York City housing shelter is supposed to have at least one housing specialist.

According to my sources, the housing specialist’s sole duty is supposed to be to help find shelter residents housing. I’ve been told that the housing specialist should not double as a case worker, or any other type of administrator. Unfortunately, in my 400+ days of being a resident in the NYC homeless shelter system, I have yet to encounter a person who fulfills this role in the aforementioned manner. I have also yet to receive any tangible housing help.

I wonder why none of the shelters I’ve been in have had a staff member whose sole duty it is to aggressively search for housing for shelter residents. If the City wants to attempt to eradicate the abysmal homeless situation, it would stand to reason that filling this position would be a priority for shelter administrators.

The following questions must be answered:

• Is it part of the contract of homeless shelter providers to have a housing specialist on duty? (After all, these contracts are worth millions. Surely, providers can eke out a slot in their budgets to make sure residents have proper help finding housing.)
• If each shelter is supposed to have a housing specialist whose sole duty is to help residents find housing, whose responsibility is it to check and make sure this is so?
• Finally, are shelter contract receivers pocketing money that should be allocated to make sure residents get the services they need by giving one person several titles? (Note: This usually results in the person fulfilling none of the jobs efficiently, if at all.)

The aforementioned questions need to be investigated, and answered. I’ve asked this before, and I’ll ask it again: Where is the transparency? Where is the efficiency?

-The Homeless New Yorker

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Red Tape: How Do You Prove You Went On A Job Interview?

HMLS New Yorker Red Tape

If you inform shelter administrators that you went on a job interview, expect to be asked to show proof.

I informed my shelter administrator that I went on a job interview. My subsequent Independent Living Plan (ILP), a document shelter residents are expected to sign on a bimonthly basis, said that I had to show proof that I went on the interview. How exactly am I supposed to do that?

How do you show proof that you attended a job interview? Short of having a camera crew filming the actual interview, how do you prove you were there? Do you make an abnormal request to the interviewer to write a letter stating that you attended the interview? Good luck on getting the job after making that kind of peculiar request.

Hypothetically speaking, even if you do get a letter or some kind of document stating that you attended the interview, how you the administrators verify the document’s authenticity? Would they call the establishment you interviewed with in order to verify you were there? Again, good luck with getting the job after a shelter administrator inquiries about your whereabouts like you’re a parolee.

I can’t quite understand the reasoning behind attempting to implement protocols like this. Yet, there are people holed up in their room doing drugs morning, noon, and night. Who is “verifying” their activities?

I desperately need affordable housing now! Being in this system, which is rife with red tape, is detrimental in so many ways. Where is a “housing specialist” when you need one?

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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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Update On My Pending Chattel Slavery-Like Ship-Out: Part 1

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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…

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The Homeless New Yorker Red Tape Quote Of The Week: The 9-1-1 Non-Believer Edition

HMLS New Yorker Red Tape

“[Insert Shelter Director’s Name] doesn’t believe in 9-1-1.” -A Shelter Security Guard

I overheard a shelter security guard making the aforementioned statement to co-workers while they were discussing the protocols of what to do when a serious incident happens in the shelter.

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Maybe My Shelter Expects Me To Yoga My Way To Housing

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Businesses, organizations, and institutions that operate ineptly often attempt to create window-dressing to cover up their ineffectiveness. For months, I’ve been expressing to homeless services and shelter administrators that I need tangible housing help that they are failing to provide. I’ve also consistently expressed dismay with administrators continuously exhibiting incompetence when it comes to their meeting scheduling practices, among other valid complaints. These very important issues have yet to be properly addressed, and still persist. Yet, instead of providing, and improving, services they profess to provide, my shelter has introduced weekly yoga classes.

Granted, yoga classes are a nice gesture. There are residents who can perhaps benefit from this activity. However, when you look at the big picture and see the obvious gaping holes that exist in the services provided, the protocols that are implemented, and shelter conditions (which includes violence and rampant drug use), one could easily become perplexed and befuddled about how a shelter immersed in so many problems can find the time to conduct yoga classes.

Yesterday, I attended my shelter’s mandatory bi-monthly meeting with my case worker. I was provided with zero housing recommendations; no answers on how to get a housing voucher, or a “required” open public assistance case- despite several written inquiries requesting this information for months; and no reasonable explanation as to why I was, yet again, stood up by a shelter administrator for a “mandatory” meeting on Friday. Also, during this obligatory meeting, administrators attempted to get me to sign documents that contained false information, and contained clauses that could potentially violate my rights (more on that in a future post).

In the midst of all of this going on, during the aforementioned bi-monthly meeting, I noticed that my case worker had a huge handmade posterboard chart in her office that was purportedly created to track yoga progress. Where is the chart that tracks how many shelter residents the shelter has successfully placed in housing?

In the words of a venture capitalist who entitled a section of his book, “Why dogs at work and yoga aren’t culture”: “Yes, yoga may make your company a better place to work for people who like yoga…It will not establish a core value that drives the business and helps promote it in perpetuity. It is not specific with respect to what your business aims to achieve.” (Ben Horowitz)

What exactly is my shelter aiming to achieve? Providing yoga doesn’t exempt you from your professional responsibilities; nor does it camouflage incompetence and gross neglect. Also note, this is the same shelter that forbids residents from having bottled water; yet, now they’re so “health conscious” they have yoga classes…SMH!!

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The Homeless New Yorker Red Tape Quote Of The Week: The Get Used To Being Homeless Edition

HMLS New Yorker Red Tape

“Is this your first time being homeless? You’ll get used to it.” –A Shelter Director

The above-stated question and statement is what a shelter director said to me when I balked at having to wait for over three hours before she spoke with me.

No one should ever “get used” to an abnormal way of life, or to disrespect. Note that this director walked past me several times while I was waiting for her and never explained that there would be a long wait or a delay. She never addressed me while I was waiting, period. In addition to this, I was the only one waiting to meet with her. There were no long lines, or a crowd vying for her attention. There was absolutely no way for me to get “lost in the crowd.”

Also, how high is the NYC homeless shelter return rate if this shelter director saw fit to ask me if I had ever been homeless before? This wasn’t the only time I was asked this question by a shelter administrator. It seems like anytime I express dismay with the improper behavior of administrators or staff, I get asked that question. That’s proof positive that the system seeks to “break” residents, and get them to accept improprieties they shouldn’t accept.

-The Homeless New Yorker

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