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


Bullying Administrators Who Trap Shelter Residents, Literally

No Bully Zone

Some shelter administrators engage in bullying tactics that are extremely egregious. The fact that there are administrative tyrants who go unpunished, all while receiving paychecks that are garnered tax-payer dollars, makes this system seem like it is set up to be the enemy of the very people they are supposed to protect; and the enemy of people whose hard-earned funds facilitate its existence.

By virtue of its status alone, homelessness is attached to vulnerability, disenfranchisement, and a bevy of other unfavorable states of being. When you add a bullying administrator, who has substantial control of your living environment to these factors, the difficulty of an already grueling situation is exponentially increased.

Since entering the New York City homeless shelter system in 2016, I have experienced more than my fair share of red-tape ridiculousness, unprofessionalism, and unconscionable behavior from various administrators. Most recently, I witnessed a shelter administrator trap a resident in her office, while the resident made pleas to be let out. The whole encounter made quite an impression, to say the least.

After I witnessed the disturbing incident, the administrator voluntarily stated that the client wasn’t “in compliance,” and I shouldn’t be affected by the “energy” of her dealings with another client. She also stated that she hoped I would be “in compliance.”


Who hires these people and entrusts them with the care of people who are in vulnerable positions; positons made even more vulnerable and precarious by people who think it’s okay to intentionally, physically restrict a person’s movements amidst their cries of protestations? How is this type of behavior and intimidation acceptable? This system is unbelievable. I will continue to speak out concerning my experiences.

-The Homeless New Yorker


NYC’s Smoke-Free Air Act

HMLS New Yorker

Due to the known dangers of second-hand smoke, New York City has enacted laws to combat it. New York City’s Smoke-Free Air Act provides remedies for people who are exposed to second-hand smoke in their living quarters.

According to New York Tenants’ Guide To Smoke-Free Housing, in the event of exposure to second-hand smoke: “Possible legal claims include claims for negligence, trespass, breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment, nuisance, and violation of the warranty of habitability. If the exposure to secondhand smoke forced you to move out of your apartment, you may also have a claim for constructive eviction.”


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!


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


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!


When You Reside In A Shelter That is So Noisy You Can’t Make a Phone Call

For the majority of 2016, I resided in a shelter that had so much loud, inappropriate, background noise, I couldn’t make or receive a phone call there. I was better off trying to make a phone call outdoors, while trying to overtalk the sounds of background traffic, than I was to attempt to talk on the phone in the shelter facility.

At any given time of the day or night, my room was overtaken with the sounds of: Arguments over debts; domestic arguments and violence; arguments and violence over heroin, crack, missing money; people running from room to room loudly looking for food, video game controllers, other people, et cetera; intercom announcements announcing lunch, dinner, breakfast, case worker meetings, frequent fire drills, et cetera; case workers yelling “room check,” for their weekly room checks; blasting music; and almost anything else you can imagine. The irony is that the shelter had residents sign a “Good Neighbor Policy” which they never enforced.

How can you possibly communicate with realtors, employers, clients, or anyone else for that matter, via telephone, in such an environment? Impossible! SMH!
I’m currently in a shelter that is much, much, much better managed! The environment is an LOT quieter. I’ve been able to contact dozens of realtors since I’ve been here. The lack of inappropriate background noise and violent tension has been a vast improvement compared to the conditions that I have lived under for the majority of 2016.

I’m hoping to find housing soon!!

-The Homeless New Yorker


The Homeless New Yorker Red Tape Quote Of The Week: The Dream House Edition

HMLS New Yorker Red Tape

“This is not about getting your dream house.” -A Department of Homeless Services Administrator

The above statement was made to me by a New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) administrator during a case conference. I hadn’t heard a statement this preposterous and out-of-touch since Barbara Bush famously said the following about Hurricane Katrina survivors: “They’re underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.

The New York City shelter system administrators I’ve come in contact with thus far seem so extremely out-of-touch with what their clients are experiencing, and with who their clients are as people.

The above-stated quote is so insulting to what my family has been through, and continues to go through.

The DHS administrator’s statement, and the context in which it was said, communicated to me that he thinks the following: My family got pushed out of our home of five-and-a-half years, with an order to vacate; came into the violent, drug-riddled, oppressive, unhealthy New York City shelter system; continually loses income/work opportunities due to shelter conditions and ridiculous red tape; entered a system where it’s EXTREMELY challenging to save money because, believe it or not, being homeless is just as, if not more, expensive than having a stable place to live where you pay rent and utilities; lives in a shelter that doesn’t allow residents to have bottled water (although this rule seems to only be subjugated to my family); lives in a dangerous, prison-like environment; lives in a shelter with constantly blaring music and screams from violent arguments; and a multitude of other pejoratives; as a ploy to get our “dream house.” SMH!! I will NEVER forget his statement and the mindset it conveys.

How can someone work with the homeless population and yet be so oblivious? It speaks volumes about the condition of the New York City Department of Homeless Services and the shelter system.


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.


When An Ex-Marine Says NYC Shelters Are Not Safe

HMLS New Yorker

Yesterday, the New York Daily News printed an article about homeless vets. The article quoted a former Marine who took to living under a boardwalk with his wife in order to avoid the violence of a New York City homeless shelter. He is quoted as saying that “there was too much fighting” and it “wasn’t safe.”

What does it say that even a trained Marine fears living in a NYC shelter? This city MUST do better. We have to, collectively, get it right as a city and a society.