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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A Day In The Life Of A NYC Homeless Shelter Resident: May 10, 2017

HMLS New Yorker

[PLEASE NOTE: I WILL PERIODICALLY UPDATE THIS POST UNTIL 12 MIDNIGHT 5/11/17.]

• 12:26 AM: Was awakened by security when he had to yell to a resident to “draw the curtain,” while the resident was using the shower. Presumably, the bathroom floods when the curtain isn’t drawn. This is another one of those nuisances that one has to grin and bear when residing in a shelter. It’s not like the security officer had any other option but to yell this out.

• 2:44 AM: Was awakened by a strong drug smell seeping into our room.

• 4:44 AM and 5:47 AM: A drug aroma wafts into our room.

• Today, I had to run what I call “homeless errands,” once again. These are errands that eat up your time, and errands that you wouldn’t have to do if you weren’t homeless. This includes picking up mail from my post office box, going to storage, searching for housing, and attempting to untangle all the red tape of the various agencies you have to deal with when you’re homeless.

• Stopped by the health store to buy essential oils. This is a necessary expense when you are trying to fight off the negative effects of living in close proximity to drug users.

• Got a bubble tea; one of my comfort foods. You’ll need to have a snack or two that takes you to your happy place when you are living in the shelter system. Lol.

• Was uplifted by a highlight of the day; seeing a performance by middle-school students. It’s always inspiring to see young people use their talents.

• Came back to the shelter in the afternoon, and got more than a couple of whiffs of the afternoon drug session. SMH! Unfortunately, the evening hours was more of the same.

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The Hope Springs Eternal Shelter

Window Dressing

When I first got to the shelter I currently reside in, I was optimistic that it was going to be a well-run facility that had a professional and efficient staff. After being forcibly transferred from a facility rife with violence, rampant drug use, and a slew of management problems (CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE for my posts on my shelter transfer experience), it would have been a near impossibility for this shelter to be worse than the one we came from.

At intake, on December 5, 2016, the shelter’s administrator told us to look forward to being in our new home by New Year’s. She said the shelter was good at what they did, and seeing that we are a family with strictly a housing issue, we should look forward to placement soon.

Being that this shelter didn’t immediately reveal having the problems that the previous shelter had, such as: Impotent, militaristic security; an extremely loud hallway environment; blatantly ornery caseworkers; rules that banned bottled water, or any type of food or beverage; etc.; We had a good first impression. However, our first impression was not a lasting impression.

In approximately a month, the shiny veneer began to peel. The following situations reared their ugly heads:
• An unrelentingly, intense drug smell began to waft into our room on a daily basis; a problem we reported and had good faith would be quashed by the shelter’s administrators and staff. It wasn’t.

• The housing-search packet given to me by a shelter administrator, which seemed so great because the previous shelter’s administrators never provided such a resource, proved to be chock-full of disconnected or ever-ringing numbers, scammers, and realtors who were blatantly discriminatory.

• Staff could be heard cursing residents, even over the intercom.

• No tangible housing placement help has been given.

• Administrators use bullying tactics towards residents, and abuse their power.

• Just like the previous shelter, administrators schedule meetings they fail to show up to.

• Administrators make false claims on paperwork; such as, marking documents as “2nd issued,” when it is the first time they present it to a resident.

• Etc., etc., etc.

Although this shelter will, hopefully, never be as bad as the previous shelter, which I nicknamed Alcatraz; being better than the worse doesn’t make you good, or even acceptable.

It’s sad and disappointing to say, but beware of shelters proclaiming efficiency and professionalism. Wait to see consistency, or you just might be bamboozled.

-The Homeless New Yorker

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A Day In The Life Of A NYC Homeless Shelter Resident: May 9, 2017

HMLS New Yorker

[PLEASE NOTE: I WILL PERIODICALLY UPDATE THIS POST UNTIL 12 MIDNIGHT 5/10/17.]

• 12:01 AM: Strong drug smell.

• 2:39 AM: Strong drug smell. The aroma was so potent it woke me up out of my sleep. I was so exhausted from yesterday’s activities that I fell back asleep pretty quickly.

• 4:30 AM: I woke up to start my day. I’m exhausted from consistently not getting the proper sleep.

• Afternoon Hours: Instead of carrying out the afternoon activities I had planned, I came back to the shelter to take a nap…Did I mention my EXHAUTION? SMH! I was actually able to take a nap for about 2 and a half hours without being awakened by potent drug smells or hallway/outdoor yelling/noise. Please note, those activities weren’t abated for the day, just postponed. SMH, once again.

• Evening Hours: A loud hallway conversation/argument between staff and residents over a missing piece of paper. The staff member is on the war path, threatening to put the residents out until midnight because he swears they signed a paper and didn’t return it. He professes to have never lost any paperwork.

• The “impunity drug users” are at it again, although whatever they smoked at 8:22 PM was less potent than their usually fare. (Note, no one ever threatens to put them out until midnight.)

• 8:46 PM: The “impunity drug users” have lit up their more potent stash. SMH!!

• 11:36 PM: Strong drug smell.

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A Day In The Life Of A NYC Homeless Shelter Resident: May 8, 2017

HMLS New Yorker

[PLEASE NOTE: I WILL PERIODICALLY UPDATE THIS POST UNTIL 12 MIDNIGHT 5/9/17.]

• The Midnight Hour: A drug aroma and a cigarette aroma intermittently seeps into our room.

• 4:55 AM: A loud, prolonged conversation that was being had in front of the facility woke me up. About 20 minutes later, I was able to fall back asleep. I grabbed about 30 more minutes of sleep before I had to start my day.

• The daily drug fest that goes on in close proximity to my room, had their morning session. SMH!! There is only so much warding off of drug fumes tea tree oil can do. SMH.

• When you’re in a homeless shelter, you don’t have access to a majority of your personal belongings. Your belongings are likely packed in a storage facility, which isn’t conducive to easy access. You are also likely living is a very small shelter room with miniscule space to keep your personal belongings. This means that you have to constantly run back-and-forth to where your belongings are being stored so that you can have the basic items you need to get through your days. This ever-present errand a time-consuming necessity I have to consistently tend to.

• Attended a community meeting. Due to the 9 PM shelter curfew, I had to leave early. However, I arrived back at the shelter in tine for the 8:55 PM drug fest. SMH!

• 9:46 PM: I’m not happy to say that recently, my studies for my professional certification has fell short due to what my family is experiencing in the NYC shelter system. However, I am detrmined to hit my mark despite being currently ensnared in this wicked system. After a LONG day, I am up studying. Once again, a potent drug smell wafts into my room. The “impunity drug users” are at it again. I grab my face mask, but it is no match. This system is clearly designed to deteriorate and deter. I will still stay up until at least midnight to get some work done. There is also a considerable amount of noise outside. The people who are actually made to go outside to smoke are outside conversing. Also, although it is now past 10 PM, someone sees fit to loudly do their dishes in the hallway. They must think that banging their dishes on the side of the sink is a good drying tactic. SMH!

• 10:31 PM: Strong drug smell.

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A Day In The Life Of A NYC Homeless Shelter Resident: May 7, 2017

HMLS New Yorker

[PLEASE NOTE: I WILL PERIODICALLY UPDATE THIS POST UNTIL 12 MIDNIGHT 5/8/17.]

On Sunday, some people observe the Sabbath; some people use the day as a day of rest to prepare for the upcoming workweek. However, when you’re a resident in the NYC shelter system, Sunday does not mean there is a respite from any of the reckless behavior that can occur.

• A potent drug smell wafted into our room during the morning and the afternoon hours.

• A staff member, who acted as the aggressor, got into a loud back-and-forth with a resident who he accused of breaking curfew. The staff member used profanity, and inappropriate name calling, towards the resident who did not respond in kind.

• The staff member, who a few hours earlier acted as an overly-aggressive stickler for the rules, clearly engaged in behavior that has to be against the rules of how he performs his job.

• 8:53 PM: Once again, a potent drug smell wafts into our room. There’s no sign of a staff member to put a stop to the behavior. The rules are blatantly, unevenly enforced; A sure way to cause an increase of unruly behavior and dissension in any operation.

• 8:59 PM: The drug smell becomes increasingly potent.

• 10:08 PM, 10:32 PM, 11:35 PM: Drug smell comes into our room.

• 11:42 PM: A strong cigarette smell comes into our room.

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A Day In The Life Of A NYC Homeless Shelter Resident: May 6, 2017

HMLS New Yorker

[PLEASE NOTE: I WILL PERIODICALLY UPDATE THIS POST UNTIL 12 MIDNIGHT 5/7/17.]

• Thankfully, it was relatively uneventful in the shelter during the day. After a long week, I was able to catch up on some sleep. However, there was a light drug aroma that wafted into our room in the early afternoon.

• 8:50 PM: An extremely strong drug aroma began to waft into our room. I grab my face mask and essential oils. It’s close to curfew, so going outside to avoid the smoke is not an option. It doesn’t make sense to complain to staff because nothing will be done to stop it…Been there, done that.

• 9 PM: The smoking and choking soundbite is in full effect. The strong drug aroma is still wafting into our room. If staff cares to acknowledge what is going on, there is clear evidence.

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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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Homeless Shelter Mathematics: 4 Police Vehicles, 9 Police Officers, 1 Ambulance, 2 Ambulance Attendants & 1 Disabled Woman Out In The Rain

HMLS New Yorker

As a punishment for the infraction of certain rules, shelter residents are made to leave the facility for a number of hours. The alleged offending resident could be made to stay outside until midnight, or until the on-duty front-desk security officer concludes their shift.

Residents have been locked out of the shelter for arguing, being loud, or taking too long on a smoke break after curfew.

Recently, a disabled shelter resident, who appears to be elderly, was expelled from the shelter for allegedly being too loud. Police and emergency personnel were called to the shelter to eject the woman for her alleged offense. I don’t know what prompted the extreme response of: 4 police vehicles, 9 Police Officers, 1 Ambulance, and 2 Ambulance Attendants appearing at the shelter to expel one disabled woman. However, after the woman was forced to leave the shelter, she spent hours outside the facility bellowing about the injustice of her banishment. Stating that she had nowhere to go, she loudly pleaded to be let back into the facility.

Again, I am not privy to all of the details leading up to this particular incident. However, I do know that some residents are punished with expulsions, while others are allowed to commit serious offenses, such as obvious drug use, with impunity.

-The HMLS New Yorker

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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 are 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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