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

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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.”

obama-confused-look

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

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Caseworker Type: The Flirt

Ariana Flirt Meme

Only second in residency-related abuse of power to correction officers who use the inmate population as their personal dating pool, the flirtatious caseworker unconscionably throws out “availability” signals to clients. These reckless, thinly-veiled come-ons are bolstered by the understanding that the caseworker has the power to make an already extremely difficult situation even more difficult.

Married people, or people in committed relationships, are not exempt from the antics of the flirtatious case worker. Even if the case worker is aware that their flirtations are not likely to result in a liaison, this may not necessarily be a deterrent for their antics.

For some of the caseworkers who shamelessly flirt, a liaison is not their end-goal. Their off-putting behavior is instead used to be a distraction for the poor manner in which they do their jobs; or it is used as a tool to cause dissension between couples, as one of the many divide-and-conquer tactics that a family may encounter when they are in the shelter system; or it can be used by the caseworker to provoke a negative response that will likely be used against the ensnared subject who is repulsed by the caseworker’s inappropriate conduct.

Beware of your responses to any type of unprofessional behavior. Always keep your composure, and respectfully remove yourself from any situation that seems untoward.

Characteristics of a Flirtatious Caseworker:

• This person may or may not be dressed in professional attire. No matter the outfitting, they will find a reason to expose body parts that should be properly covered in a public/professional setting. Their excuses may range from: Room temperature change, changing comfortability levels, the need to execute random maneuvers that emphasize their speech, the sudden need to return a borrowed article of clothing to someone that they happen to be wearing; the list can go on.

• This person may have background music playing in their office, but it will not be “neutral,” like elevator music. They may also happen to “casually” sing along with the most provocative parts of the song.

• This person may proclaim profusely, without query or expressed interest on the client’s part, to be in a relationship. Their professed relationship status seems to be negligible when it comes to their antics though.

• In a couples or family situation, the flirtatious caseworker will exude feigned helpfulness and kindness to the subject of their foolery, while expressing derision towards that person’s spouse or partner.

REMEMBER: No matter what caseworker type you encounter, never lose focus of the fact that you are interacting with the service provider to get housing help. When it is in your power to do so, make your need to receive housing placement the main, if not the only, topic of discussion with your service provider. If it is not within your power to keep the focus of the meeting on your stated need, try not to spend any substantial time or energy engaging in counterproductive banter. Also, when necessary, politely remove yourself from any detrimental situation.

-The Homeless New Yorker

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Should Every Homeless Person Subpoena Their DHS File?

HMLS New Yorker

A recent case conference with shelter administrators was the catalyst for me going through the proper channels to file to procure my Department of Homeless Services (DHS) file.

The aforementioned case conference was chock-full of notable occurrences; each of which deserve their own, separate blog posts. However, I was moved to subpoena my DHS case file when my shelter’s director erroneously proclaimed that I had been offered “several housing placements.” This proclamation was made by the director when I requested housing-search assistance. (Note, as of today, I have been in the New York City homeless shelter system for 403 days. I have yet to receive any tangible housing help.)

The director confusingly rebuffed my request for help with her erroneous statement, within minutes of declaring that she was there to help me. This quick turnaround only reveals a hint of how ridiculously egregious the things that I experienced during this meeting was.

Over 2 ½ months after several case conferences were scheduled and canceled, due to the shelter director’s failure to appear, I finally met her face-to-face, for the first time, during this case conference. She was so hostile and unprofessional, I chose to excuse myself from the meeting rather than endure her bullying. Needless to say, she didn’t provide me with any housing-search help. However, she did provide me with motivation to immediately file to receive a copy of my Department of Homeless Services file.

Residents of homeless shelters should be familiar with what administrators are putting in their files, especially since the contents of their files are likely to have a direct effect on how they will be treated by shelter administrators. Residents should also have knowledge of the contents of their files so they can properly dispute any false information that is placed in it.

Be aware that shelter administrators may deem what is contained in your file as “fact.” This was the response that was made to me to me when I told my shelter’s director that I did not receive any housing placements. She claimed to have studied my file, and said that her statement was a “fact.” It should be noted that I have been in the shelter she directs for over 4 months and, thus far, I have never been offered any housing placements while I’ve been there. Therefore, I presume she’s taking as “fact” what another administrator at another shelter wrote in my file; presuming my file actually says I’ve been offered housing placements.

My experience should be used as an impetus for all shelter residents to obtain their files, go over it with a fine-toothed comb, and dispute any discrepancies.

-The Homeless New Yorker

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A Quick Status Update On My Current Situation

HMLS New Yorker

Things continue to be “interesting” to say the least. SMH! I have a bunch of posts that I’m backed up on that I will be posting soon. Before I became homeless, I always had great empathy for people who didn’t have the basic necessity of a home. However, I could never fathom that people living in the homeless shelter system experience some of things that I’m experiencing now. This system is extremely broken and abusive, I only hope that it isn’t irreparably so.

-The Homeless New Yorker

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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!

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

will-you-please-be-quiet
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

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