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.
I’m doing everything I can to find affordable housing; turning over every stone. Still, I have to abide by a shelter curfew, which means I have to leave early when I’m at certain community/housing events seeking housing or housing information.
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.
“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.
Due to new shelter rules that were implemented this summer that disallows shelter residents from having any food items, including bottled water, my family has been greatly feeling the adverse effects. As if shelter-living isn’t unhealthy enough, my shelter administrators decided to violate our rights to have bottled water and fruits and vegetable snacks that will help to supplement our nourishment and partially combat the unhealthy lifestyle living in this shelter causes. We are greatly feeling the adverse effects of not having our daily recommended intake of water. Yet, as I type this, there is an intense drug smell seeping into my room.
Shelter administrators’ response to my family constantly having to smell drugs: “Close the vents in your room, and put a towel under your door. That’s the best we can tell you.” Meanwhile, the shelters’ administrators have successfully stopped me from having water and basic healthy snacks in my room for months, but they say they are powerless to stop the drug use in the facility. SMH!
THIS IS A HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION!! All of this is going on in the “richest” city in one of the “richest” countries in the world. This country even advocates providing clean water to “third-world countries,” but I’m not allowed to have bottled water. I guess I’ll be spending my holiday weekend campaigning for my human rights.
Here’s a video about the result of human beings not getting enough water:
I reside in a shelter that does not allow residents to have a table or a chair. When I found this out, I asked my case worker if I could be allowed to have a chair. I told her that I have a professional skill that requires daily practice, and in order to perform this daily practice I needed a chair.
The beds in the room are extremely close to the ground. There is no way I can sit properly and practice from a position that is so close to the floor. I explained this to my case worker. I told her that performing my daily practice was extremely important to the advancement of my life. Her response was: “Advance your life from the edge of your bed.”
This was another incident, in a multitude of shelter incidents, that continues to make me feel like an incarcerated ward of the State.
After doing some independent research, I found out that I could file a reasonable accommodation request form to ask for permission to have a chair. (Isn’t that something?! A human being having to file a form and write a letter to get permission to have a chair so they can sit in an upright position.) Of course, my case worker did not offer this as an option to me.
After a couple of months, my request was granted, and I was able to possess a small folding chair.
I feel like an inmate. I’ve been a law-abiding citizen my entire life. Rents sky-rocket, I get pushed out of my home of 5 and-a-half years, and now I’m being made to feel like a prisoner. A prisoner that has to get permission to have a necessary, basic item.
“There’s nothing we can do. We tell them to stop smoking, and as soon as we walk away, they light up again.” -A Security Supervisor To A Subordinate
Meanwhile, this same security supervisor was joking about writing people up yesterday. SMH.
There is a persistent smell of drugs in the shelter I reside in, so much so, it is making me sick. The shelter I reside in sees fit to stop people from coming into the facility with bottled water and any type of food (an update on that later), yet all kinds of drugs are being smoked in the facility and the security supervisor shrugs it off.
All the inspections in the world haven’t stopped the rampant drug use. There’s no one to complain to when the above quote is the pervasive attitude by the staff towards smoking in the facility. Yet, I can’t have bottled water, or any kind of food items in the facility. I feel like I reside in a drug den. The non-stop smell of drugs constantly seeps into my room. It often feels like the drug smell is coming through the vents as well. I NEED PROPER HOUSING NOW!!
Last week, upon entering the shelter where I currently reside, my family and I were informed that a new shelter policy had taken effect, allegedly effective 20 minutes prior to our arrival. The new rule states that we are no longer allowed to have ANY food and beverages in the facility. This new mandate also includes bottled water.
Due to the sudden rule change regarding food and beverages, my family was forced to exit the facility with the sandwiches we had bought to eat for the day. The sudden implementation of the new rule meant that we had to throw out half of our meal because we were not able to consume it in one sitting.
I can’t help but ask myself for the raison d’etre for the new rule. I don’t think the rule has been implemented in order to keep the facility clean. The rule exempts people who have “medical clearance.” A bevy of residents have come and gone in and out of the facility with food since the new rule has been announced. (I guess a lot of the residents have “medical clearance.”) Also, I have still seen food and food containers that have been thrown away in the bathroom garbage receptacles since the mandate has been put into effect.
The oppressive nature of the rule, which disallows me and my family from even having bottled water, will cause quite a change to our dietary practices. We are a family that has a “water quota.” We try to drink a certain amount of water on a daily basis. We periodically sip water throughout our waking hours. We also periodically snack on fruits and vegetables. It’s our way of trying to combat the unhealthy lifestyle that can come along with homelessness. My shelter’s new mandate seriously reverses our efforts. Here is yet another incident that makes us feel like we are inmates in a prison.
“ROOM INSPECTION. I just saw you come upstairs. I know you have clothes on.” -A Homeless Shelter Case Worker
This is how a case worker screams through the hallway to a homeless shelter resident, while rapidly and loudly banging on that person’s door with a security guard by her side to do a routine room inspection.
This is so callous, and adds to the atmosphere of living in a prison-like environment. What if that particular resident, or any resident within the sound of the case worker’s ruckus, was on the phone with their employer, on a business call, or on the phone with a loved one handling a sensitive matter? The above-stated quote is what would be heard in the background of that call. No professionalism, no courtesy, and no class!
“Orange is the New Black,” which is a book about a woman’s experience being incarcerated, conveys multiple prison protocols that mirror so many shelter protocols and administrative attitudes. Sadly, I don’t find this shocking since I have a case worker who told me, “These are the same questions you get asked when you get arrested” when I queried about the relevance of certain questions she was asking me. SMH!