I concur on what this woman says living in a New York City homeless shelter is like. I’ve experienced the degradation caused by shelter employees and administrators, the adverse effects to employment, the lumping of people together, the oppressive curfew system, the red tape run-around, the lack of tangible housing assistance, the train system being used as make-shift shelters overnight, and much more.
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.
Homeless New Yorker
The New York City shelter system seems to be the new prison-industrial complex. However, unlike the treacherous prison system, you don’t have to commit a crime, or be falsely accused of committing a crime, to be ensnared in the New York City shelter system.
The New York City shelter system is comprised of the vast and varied pool of: The employed (including city workers), the unemployed, the old, the young, the middle-aged, the educated, the uneducated, the disabled, married people, single people, the formerly incarcerated, the never incarcerated, the healthy, the sick, the sane, the insane, etc. However, the expansiveness of this pool thinly narrows when it comes to race.
Is homelessness in New York a race issue, just like the disproportionate number of Black people imprisoned? You bet! Black New Yorkers have been “gentrified” out of the City, or into homeless shelters. These shelters are akin to prisons; as they are run as such. As someone who is currently a resident in the New York City shelter system, I can attest to this.
Like the prison system, the New York City shelter system is a profit-driven industry that encourages recidivism, and is not designed for the easy escape of its prisoners. The penitentiary-like conditions, and the red-tape ridiculousness, I confront on a daily basis as a resident of the New York City shelter system is baffling and appalling. When you factor in the fact that the City plans to expand the abominable homeless shelter system, it is clear that there is no plan to abate the dreadful conditions that are being visited upon homeless New Yorkers.
We; the knowing, abled, and concerned; must collectively combat this conundrum. Although there is a privileged group of New Yorkers (aka elected officials) who have been entrusted, and financially enriched, to perform the aforementioned task; it is obvious that something is amiss. We must step up to the plate a fiercely attack homelessness. What is left of our community depends on it.
-The HMLS New Yorker
I went to sleep, and woke up, thinking about what I can do to promote my family’s health. A You Tube video I watched reminded me of the importance of drinking water. It’s sadly ironic how quickly being institutionalized can curtail your habits, and how long it can take to reinstate them.
In the last shelter I was in, several months ago, bottled water was abruptly banned. (CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE for posts regarding that.) Of course, the water ban negatively affected my family’s water intake. It also changed my water-drinking habits for months to come. I purchase water, but my intake level is nowhere close to being what it was pre-homelessness and pre-water ban. I had to examine myself, and ask myself why.
Being in a system where your environment is abnormally controlled on a large scale by someone else, unfortunately, also means that your habits are controlled and damaged by that system as well. Being subjected to certain rules for a prolonged period consciously and subconsciously affects your momentum, and the things you are naturally inclined to do.
The You Tube video I watched reminded me of the importance of drinking water. Today is the day I start to re-implement consistent water drinking into my daily regimen.
-The Homeless 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.
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
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.