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Homeless People Got 24 Hours & 2 Plastic Bags to Pack up & Move. They fought back. They won.

I don’t want anyone to think that I hate Arvernetta Henry, as I may have implied from my last post. We don’t always get along, but you can see what a firecracker (today I learned a Japanese word that may fit, tsundere) she is in this video, this time applied to good purpose. She demanded to be taken out of my e-mail address book, but she had positive comments about me in the meeting this morning, which means she probably didn’t see yesterday’s blog entry. When I wrote it, I always intended this video to be the next entry.

Soap Returns After Eighty Days

Did it go around the world?  Thursday night is exactly eighty days after I arrived at The Bowery Mission Transitional Housing Facility.  And Thursday night, when I returned from the Picture the Homeless Gala, was the first time the east restroom on the third floor had soap in it.  The other two were refilled, too.  It had gone back to the Eddie Harris days when I had to bring my bar soap to the restroom every time I had to use the toilet.  When you put in “Eddie Harris Men’s Shelter” on Google, the first thing that came up, at least before I started blogging about it, was a list of their 2009 violations.  One of these was lack of hand soap in the bathrooms.  It was still an issue in 2012 when I resided there.  This is really important, because it shows that the city just continues to pay a ridiculous amount of money for shelter services when the shelters refuse to correct any of their violations. There isn’t a whole lot of difference between this and the HSBC money laundering scam, aside from the fact that money laundering is a felony and this is merely a violation.  The principle remains the same.  Whatever slap on the wrist they receive is treated as a cost of doing business, and they are never forced to stop doing what they should not be doing. It seems shocking to me that whatever fine with which the shelter is charged for not supplying soap in the restrooms would be less than the annual cost to stock the restroom with soap–if it were less expensive to stock the restroom with soap than to pay a fine for not doing it, surely they would buy the soap instead of pay the fine.

My caseworker, whose talk of the devil in the cafeteria reminds one of Antonin Scalia, finally got on me for not attending the 7 AM meeting, which the the handbook says is relapse prevention.  I said that OASAS laws prohibits them from forcing me to attend, and he insisted it wasn’t a substance abuse thing. He says we can all relapse.  His relapse is the fact that he has 400 suits even though he doesn’t need nearly so many.  In his office, he displays several awards from The Bowery Mission’s parent organization for being the best-dressed employee. He told me to find a job I’d need to be out before 7 AM. I don’t know what kind of job he expects me to get at 7 AM, unless he’s psychotic enough to think a guy with multiple herniated discs, sciatica, and plantar fasciitis should work in a construction job. I asked a friend, and she started talking about teachers and city administrators, but I told her that I said “get” a job, not “have” a job.

My case manager misreads Luke 17 when he calls same-sex marriage a sign of the end times, so I’m guessing he’s pulling Arvernetta Henry-type schtick with “a man who don’t work don’t eat,” and willfully ignoring all disabilities, telling me, “it’s your choice to live in a homeless shelter,” which is true only in the sense that I choose it over the street or couchsurfing (which I tried unsuccessfully before entering the shelter system) and losing my storage (HRA pays for the storage of shelter dwellers, but not couch surfers) . Recently, Ms. Henry yelled at me for receiving group e-mail from me. She thinks only women have the right to complain about being homeless. Of course, this is not what the Bible says, except in a few obscure translations, and the grammar here is that of Ms. Henry, retired school teacher. She said to me, “I think if you applied to New York City Teaching Fellows, you would be accepted.” When I replied, “So you’re telling me I didn’t receive two postcards in the mail telling me that they were not interested in interviewing me?” at which point she screamed so loudly that I was “up in her business” that several members of the staff came running out to see what was going on. Reverend Shawn Moninger, minister of Unity of Norwalk and partner of David Friedman, advises never denying other people’s experiences. This is an extremely concrete example of this in effect. Often, the situation is that two people experience the same event differently, but there is no valid way to say that the postcards I received never existed when she was not there. The postcards probably do still exist buried in storage, since I have a tendency to retain records like this.

Two weeks ago at the pre-service at Unity of New York, Angela Leigh Tucker got us a wonderful bit of clarification in from class facilitator Carol Dacey-Charles. The third Unity principle, which says that we create our experiences, is a big challenge for her, as it is with me. She said that she is not able to accept that she caused the car accident that killed her husband and sister and left her in a coma for two months that left her seriously brain damaged (her story is public knowledge, having been told at least twice from the platform, as well as in the September-October Daily Word, which is distributed throughout the world in multiple languages). It’s not that she created the accident, Carol explained, but she created how she experienced it. She has become a vocal spokesperson for people with brain damage and thinks that she has become a better person. Similarly, my homeless situation has severely stepped up my political action and caused me to write significantly more than I had been in the previous few years, while I’ve heard stories of people who were made homeless by Hurricane Sandy becoming mentally ill (severe depression, etc.) by the experience. My 2010E housing package was rejected for lack of evidence of mental illness or substance abuse on my part, although they made me go through all the evaluations, anyway.

I’m not interested in debating my case manager on the Bible apart from these two passages. The guy is a preacher by trade and has a degree from Anderson University–he showed me his transcript. That’s a Jesuit school in Anderson, Indiana that I know fairly well. One of the plays I saw there was The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged). After the show, I told the director, Ruth Hawkins, that the only play I noticed missing was Coriolanus, and she said that they were forced to cut the only lines about it because the joke was that it was “the anus play,” a less sophisticated version of a similar joke in Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo, while my public school study of classical Latin leads me to pronounce it a different way that is also considered correct. My case manager told me that he was aware of my blog because Paul Jardine showed it to him,so I won’t throw him under the busby using his name just yet. I know he hates computers, so perhaps he won’t see this, since I’m burying this in an entry with a different title that deals with other issues at the shelter. When he asked me on intake about my religious background, I told him that I had been a member of the Unity Church since 1980. He recorded this as “Believe in Christ Jesus,” which I’m not going to deny, although he’d probably condemn me if he were aware of its teachings, given the sorts of condemnations that I’ve personally heard come from his mouth, although never directed at any person present. This is the only shelter that asked for details about religious background (most ask yes or no about a religion and go no further), and social worker John Sheehan is surprised that The Bowery Mission is allowed to have a shelter at all given their well known mandatory church attendance for their famous soup kitchen. I told him that they said that religious classes are all voluntary, but the lobby is full of Bible quotations. He said that he knew that there would be some way this organization would sneak religion into residents’ daily life.

One of the worst rules at the shelter is their half hour window for meals versus the two hour window at Bronx Park Avenue, especially when the shelter is a half hour bus ride from the subway stop, and their unwritten dress code for attending breakfast within this small window. The posted rule is that no bare feet, open toed shoes are not allowed in the cafeteria. I have never broken this rule, since this is not a way I would ever appear. I have been treated as though I have broken this rule for appearing in pajamas, socks, and closed-toe slippers. Whether winter or summer pajamas, they fully cover me, the only significant difference being the weight of the material. When I got on the staff for enforcing a different rule than what was posted. My case manager said that I chose the wrong argument, which he said should have been that they waited two months to tell me. I hate to put on clean clothes without showering first, so unless I have a good reason to get up before 6:30, let the public address system wake me up and throw my clothes over my pajamas, then put my shoes on. That way, nothing is directly on my skin that wasn’t already, and I can come back up and shower. It’s an asinine solution to an asinine rule, but the best of a bad situation. It’s particularly bad because the heat, when on, is on hard. When I came “home” the other night, the heat was on so hard that I put on my summer pajamas and was only partially covered by my sheet. I woke up from a dream in which William Shatner was guiding me and an elderly couple on rowboats through a frozen New York Bay, probably a lingering memory of the Challenge to Survive trailer.

The way the shelter currently works, it seems, is “one size fits none,” and my recognition of that makes me a target for abuse. I only hope that my case manager simply forgot about my medical condition, which would not surprise me. This meeting was the first in which he did not ask me for my tuberculosis test result, which I believe I had for him by the third meeting (shelter residents need to be tested once per year, and it was about that time when I transferred). Regardless, for several meetings, I told him he should have that in his folder, to which he responded, after a bit of searching, “Yes, I do, I surely do.” So far no one in real life has treated me with the cruelty of the cyberbullies on Twitter, and my case manager, telling me he would be on my side if I pick my battles well (he says that I fight everything, which is probably true–an Occupier at heart, all the issues are connected), and battling with the shelter staff about employment no one in their right mind would have me do is not a battle that I want to face.


STEM Graduates Can’t Find Jobs Either

What STEM Shortage?

“Using the most common definition of STEM jobs, total STEM employment in 2012 was 5.3 million workers (immigrant and native), but there are 12.1 million STEM degree holders (immigrant and native).”

People who tell me I should have done a STEM major in spite of my interests and aptitudes don’t have a leg to stand on with this study.

My homelessness is entirely the fault of others.

My Personal Fight Against Slavery

I had originally intended to title this entry something like “New York Is Slave Country” (a nod to “New York Is Book Country”), “Slaves of New York,” “New York Is a Slave State,” but the more time that passed (getting computer time to write a blog entry is difficult unless I’m at Picture the Homeless or at library branch with more computers than users–the nearest to my current shelter is Hamilton Fish Park, which has four adult computers, and I have never been granted an extension at that location.  For obvious reasons, I will not say which branch I am at as I write this, but it is not one it is always convenient for me to get to) between now and April 2, when I lobbied against the WEP program in Albany, the less relevant the story seemed to be to anything that was going on.  With Steven Banks’s October 1 announcement that he was ending WEP in New York City, I seem to have a good window, although the entry is newly written.

Shortly before April 2, Ryan Hickey, the Housing Organizer at Picture the Homeless, told me that Community Voices Heard, an organization founded by low income black and Latino women that eventually incorporated men and poor and allied whites, was doing work against the “Work Experience Program,” and I contacted the appropriate person, Jennifer Hadlock, through CVH’s website. CVH is one of PTH’s allies, and at one point, they were in the same building on 116th Street, which is right next to where I was an audience member for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? last November.  (Nobody from NYC Brainiacs Meetup group passed the test to get on the show (only four people in total from that audience did), and we complained too much on it was pop culture.  I ended up next to someone who wasn’t from the group who thought that The Crucible is set during the Crusades, but he didn’t get on, either.)  This group, again, predominantly composed of people of color, freely describes the WEP program as slavery. (One Twitter cyberbully told me that he would sic the NAACP on me for calling WEP such, but I don’t think the NAACP has strong criticisms for CVH.)  I was to board a bus at Union Square that would take the entire group to Albany, where we would be joined by groups from other urban parts of New York, such at Poughkeepsie.

We were there to lobby in favor of two bills (the same bill, one in the Assembly, and the other in the Senate), A7119A and S6120A, titled Bill to Improve Opportunities for People on Public Assistance by Prohibiting Unpaid Labor of WEP.  The Assembly bill was introduced by Keith Wright (Harlem) and was also supported by Silver (Lower Manhattan), Titus (Queens), and Farrell (Harlem).  The Senate bill was introduced by Savino (Staten Island/Brooklyn [at one time she was my senator]), Stewart (Yonkers), Skelos (Long Island), Klein (Bronx), Avella (Queens), and DeFrancesco (Syracuse).  Although this is strong bipartisan support (Silver and Skelos are notoriously right-wing, and the previous time I went to Albany, Savino and her Independent Democratic Caucus, which consistently sided with the Republicans, was the enemy, as we (Occu-Evolve that time) tried to get a fair elections/money out of politics bill passed), all of the assemblers and senators we were targeting were Democrats.

Some of the problems with the WEP include that people on WEP clean city property, including offices, subways, and parks next to workers who are getting good pay and benefits while WEP workers get nothing more than their public assistance money, which is far below the minimum wage.  WEP hurts all workers because it provides free labor and destroys jobs and raises.  It pushes people to take minimum wage jobs.  It increases poverty.  It is humiliating and undignified, and workers are ineligible for Earned Income Tax Credit, Social Security credits, or unemployment.  It is also in violation of federal workfare law, which specifically states that work program hours must be based on the prevailing minimum wage, which New York State does not do.  The bill specifically says “Prohibit WEP in NY State,” removes the work experience program as an option, and defines community service to be work at a location chosen by the person receiving the assistance.  It would end unpaid (slave) labor, keep all other “work activity” options, and give the public assistance recipient a choice in what work activity would best help them personally.  these include subsidized employment (transitional jobs), ubsubsidized employment, on-he-job training, job search and job readiness, community service programs, vocational education, and job skills related directly to employment.  WEP workers are most often women and people of color, victims of age discrimination, lacking a GED, veterans, formerly incarcerated, waiting to get approved for Social Security Disability, and people who have timed off unemployment (emphasis mine).  The idea that people who have timed off unemployment now need basic work experience is utterly absurd and should offend most ethical people.    The bill would give 25,000 people an opportunity to earn a paycheck instead of being forced to work for free (and $45 per month, which is my gross public assistance monthly, prior to penalties (for an alleged overpayment) that reduce my monthly benefit to $41.50).  It would bring more money to low income communities, and the money would go directly to families instead of the job search vendors like FEGS that profit on the backs of the poor.  It would stop the forced (and it is most definitely forced if you live in a homeless shelter–you are not allowed to stay in a homeless shelter without some form of income, even though you don’t pay out of pocket) unpaid labor of WEP.  It would create fewer program sanctions and be a boost for the low wage worker fight.  The bill would replace WEP with subsidized employment, on-the-job training, community service programs, vocational education, job skills training related directly to employment, education directly related to employment, and entrepreneurship opportunities.  This sounds a bit redundant, but this is for clarification purposes.  There are separate bills that would allow 4-year education and allow parents to provide child care themselves until their child is one year old.

We broke into groups of around six people (mine had seven), each of whom had appointments with two legislators.  My group was assigned Joan L. Millman of Brooklyn and Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor.  We were to meet with their staff, because cold introductions are best with staff, hence why we picked a time when the legislators themselves would not be in.  That way, their staff would introduce them to the concepts from a (hopefully) sympathetic perspective.  My group included Cynthia, Calvin, Sheila (Jennifer’s partner), Jarvis, Penn, and Stacy.  Cynthia was to introduce CVH; Calvin, Shelia, and Penn were to introduce WEP; Jarvis was to discuss the bill, Stacy and I were to share stories, and Jarvis would make the formal asks.

None of the staffers to whom we spoke had ever heard of WEP.  It was completely new to them, although we were informed that different counties know the program under different names.  Still, none of them knew that people on public assistance were subjected to ungodly hours of slave labor.  Although I was the only white person in our group, I was the one who shared my personal story of the slave experience, describing being forced to work for 35 hours a week filing for 32¢ an hour when I first went on public assistance in 2005-6, filing paperwork in the case management files at Project Hospitality, one of the few homeless outreach programs on Staten Island.  I wasn’t there very long before they transferred me.  I was allowed to partake of the soup kitchen food, but I felt kind of weird about it, and they usually served pork, which I was unwilling to eat and still avoid if at all possible.  I toiled away doing filing for Housing Works’ administrative offices, both on 13th Street and 34th Street (or thereabouts) with two different supervisors.  The FEGS people kept saying “If they like you, they’ll hire you.”  They said that they did like me, but as a non-profit, their budget extended only enough to pay the people we already had, but they were happy to have me as long as I was available to them.  None of them even accepted my LinkedIn adds, but everyone I knew in the program had the very same feedback.  They were soft-spoken about it, but extremely brazen in their willingness to accept slave labor at their establishment, because, as non-profit charities, they are used to working with a large contingency of volunteers.  It cannot honestly be described as volunteer work, however, when it is coerced.  My father insisted that he would not help me with my rent unless I did whatever public assistance required me to do to get some supplementary income other than what he sent me.  When I was experiencing penalty weeks on my unemployment insurance, I was doing the homeless shelter intake at Bellevue.  I was told that until the unemployment insurance benefits were actually paid out, I would have to go on public assistance or I would be sanctioned from the shelter system.  This I did, and it took multiple requests and a fair hearing to get taken off public assistance, which also meant paying for my storage out of pocket, although it also meant freedom from WEP and more time to network in lieu of Internet job searches that most “experts” (including FEGS instructors) say are not a good use of your time.  I was on WEP very briefly in February 2013, working in the computer lab at a senior shelter called Moravian Open Door.  I didn’t mind this one.  I wasn’t required to stay for the full time, but usually did because of the free computer access.  The computers at the Manhattan FEGS (I currently go to one in the Bronx, in spite of my recent move to Alphabet City) are very slow, and there are not enough for everyone to be on one for the duration of the session, causing us to waste our time in holding rooms.  I used the printer sometimes, but didn’t abuse this privilege.  The longest document I printed was eight pages (a fresh version of my comic book want list in 8 point font and three columns, since I can still read text that small pretty easily even though I’m getting close to forty).  I paid out of pocket to print a hard copy of Misused Minds, for example.

My story was hardly the most horrific, and I was not the only one in the group who had been on WEP, but they thought the humiliation of someone who had recently earned a master’s degree but had had a medical emergency was significantly poignant.  The staffers for both Millman and Thiele seemed won over.  I was probably the most skeptical in the group that they had been, but I didn’t see a lot of phoniness in their reactions to the program (certainly less than when Zephyr Teachout, for whom I voted for governor in the Democratic primary, campaigned before the Alternative Banking working group of Occupy Wall Street).  Readers of my blog know that I am an activist, and have been making myself aware of the systemic issues that enforce poverty and homelessness, but many people enter the WEP program naïvely.  One horror story involved someone who did janitorial work for the same company for almost two years.  He (if I remember correctly) believed FEGS or whoever was on his case that if he kept at his WEP assignment, he would eventually be hired as a paid worker.  When he was close to his two year anniversary, he called in sick for the very first time.  He was FTC’d (found in “Failure To Comply”) and temporarily expelled from public assistance.  He eventually won his fair hearing, but received a new WEP assignment at a different company, and eventually came to realize that there was, at least now, no realistic hope of being employed by the previous company.  This was one of the worst systemic examples of why the WEP is an inherently bad program, catering to the desires of the wealthy for free labor at the expense of the poor, but there were also stories of cases that didn’t go by the book.  For example, WEP workers were forced to work alongside paid workers doing hard, dangerous physical labor, and were denied the safety gear provided for the paid employees.  Other incidents that were de facto rather than systemic included the paid employees sitting around and forcing the WEP workers to do all the work, and numerous incidents of quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Most people seemed to think that overall the day had gone well, and that each group’s respective staffers were mostly open to the bill, although no one was expecting the bill to get passed in the current cycle, which it didn’t.  Steven Banks has the power to end WEP in New York City, but not throughout the State of New York.  While workfare programs are extremely dubious in a society in which there is not enough work available, the fight is not over, because New York State still does not calculate the hours based on the federal minimum wage as per the workfare law that was passed by Bill Clinton.  Clinton was one of the worst presidents for the poor between Workfare and NAFTA.  That “giant sucking sound of jobs to Mexico,” as Ross Perot described it, was a silly metaphor but absolutely true.  It also resulted in the spread of swine flu because of Smithfield’s unregulated operations there.  Now Obama wants to push the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) through Congress (as well as the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement), and mainstream liberals wonder why those actively on the left don’t want to vote for the Democratic Party for the sake of winning.  The answer is because we don’t want to vote for what we are against, which would make us culpable for the results.

All Souls Unitarian Church’s soup kitchen social worker John Sheehan was very cynical when I told him about Banks’s plan to phase out WEP, saying that Banks simply realized that they were spending more money on the bureaucracy to administer WEP than they would if they just put the people on public assistance into real paying jobs.  Lynn Lewis at Picture the Homeless said to me that that’s actually a good thing of itself and nothing to be cynical about, and I kind of agree with her.  She has also read Piven and Cloward and she knows that this is all a game in which the rich exploit the poor, and Banks’s solution, as well as his work when he was head of the Legal Aid Society.  He has not said with what he intends to replace WEP to comply with the federal workfare requirement that came in with Clinton. (My right-wing friend once referred to him to me as “your man Clinton,” when I didn’t like Clinton back in the days when I was a Rush Limbaugh fan, and I still don’t know. I believe strongly that my then-like of Limbaugh was rooted in my dislike of Clinton, because I started disliking Limbaugh pretty much as soon as Bush got elected.)  I may be among the first to know this.  My case went into conciliation because the staff misplaced the paperwork from Picture the Homeless requesting that I be excused from the Back to Work Program last Friday in order to meet with Lorraine Stevens of the Department of Homeless Services.  Because my case is in conciliation, I won’t need another of these notes for the meeting with Steven Banks a week from today, for which I have already attended the preparatory session.  It would be great if I could be paid by the government to work at Picture the Homeless.  They need grants in order to pay staff and don’t currently have anything for which they can hire me (I also don’t want to push Sam, whose job description best matches my skill set, out of his job, although I would love to be considered for it were he to want to move on), but that would be my first choice of a non-profit organization for me to do work, and the staff already likes me.

I have no issues with working.  I have issues with working for free for a company or organization that I have not chosen myself.  I have issues with working for a low wage when I need a place to live and have student loans to pay.  I have issues with working in ways that will exacerbate my medical condition.  I have no issue with working.  Some might consider writing this blog work.  It certainly takes quite a bit of time and mental effort to do.  I was a brainiac in school and went to college and graduate school expecting any job put before me to be about mental effort, but I graduated into an economy with few jobs.  It has never been my choice to experience long periods of unemployment.  that choice was thrust upon me by the ruling class, and it did not come allied with a perception of greatness on their part.  That pretty much disappeared after I graduated with an undergraduate degree.  Once that was done, the ruling class has seen me as an unruly thorn in their side (much as I loathe the use of such clichés) if they have seen me at all.  Perhaps if I had been treated properly by the ruling class once I completed my degrees, they would still have me as one of their useful idiot “dittoheads.”

Laundry Rights

A struggling young woman with the Twitter handle @SweetLilTracy is a sad case of brainwashing.  She doesn’t realize that while she is a nuisance to a leftist like me (telling me to flip burgers in spite of my medical condition, and to move to Seattle to do it because their minimum wage is $15, although I’ve heard horror stories about people who went there, took minimum wage customer service jobs, and ended up back in NYC because the cost of living was so high and there is far less poor relief), she is a useful idiot to those on the right, defending others’ abuse and exploitation of her. John Sheehan, the social worker at All Souls Unitarian church, agreed wholeheartedly when I told him about this.  Monday before last, he recommended Regulating the Poor:  The Functions of Public Welfare by Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward, a classic sociology text from 1971.  He told me that this is the book that made him want to get into social work, and also noted that Piven is in her eighties and still speaks at events.  Their agent for the book was Frances Goldin, whom I interviewed for a documentary by Joshua Barndt (Frances is in her nineties and has reduced her personal clientele to Mumia Abu-Jamal and Barbara Kingsolver, and told me to apply through her agency, which I’ve done).  Piven is also credited in the acknowledgments as one of the readers of an early manuscript version of Bait and Switch.  Their basic premise is that the explosion of welfare cases in the sixties is because the Great Society motivated the poor and organizations supporting them to put pressure on welfare providers to provide services to those who were eligible under the law, rather than the frequent arbitrary and capricious denials that had previously been implemented.  In other words, the number of people eligible for assistance did not grow much, but the number actually granted assistance rose.  Business fought back, extremely hard during the eighties, because poor relief has always been about quelling the masses and preventing riots while having a steady workforce of unpaid and underpaid labor available for the capitalists, who shame those who do not work even though they are the ones who create massive fluctuations in job availability.  Piven and Cloward’s revised edition of the book came out in 1993, and mentions soaring income inequality under Ronald Reagan (361), long before it became a buzzword thanks to Occupy Wall Street.  In the 1990s, when I was in high school, I naïvely believed Rush Limbaugh’s lies about how under Reagan, “the rich got richer, and the poor got richer, too,” but that is only true in terms of actual dollars.  When adjusted for inflation, the purchasing power of the poor plummeted, and the value of their benefits plummeted as well.  When on public assistance, I was forced to work 35 hours a week for a grand total of $45 a month.  I’m currently receiving $20.75 every two weeks from public assistance, plus $30 each week to pay for a Metrocard to get to and from the back to work program.  The idea of the welfare queen is a complete myth put forward by the right.  Statistics even prove that welfare recipients are actually intimidated into having fewer children, but to be a right-winger is to be a shill for the ruling class, parroting whatever falsehoods they want promulgated, which brings us back to @SweetLilTracy, who thought it was whiny for me to address something as supposedly trivial as the laundry issue in this blog.

One of the groups that put pressure on welfare providers to obey the letter of the law was Mobilization for Youth (MFY).  Picture the Homeless has put me in contact with Daniela Robles of MFY Legal Services, and she has worked with me a number of times, particularly with HRA foolishness.  I contacted her about the laundry issue, and she left me the following on voice mail:

The shelter is supposed to allow you to do your laundry.  It shouldn’t be a pillowcase policy.  You should be able to do your laundry as much as you want, but regarding what you have told me about their one-pillowcase policy, and they seem very adamant about enforcing it, we don’t actually deal with that here, but you need to contact Coalition for the Homeless, and they will help you with that.

I’m not quite sure about the last line, because I wasn’t able to write it all down before my phone deleted it.  I haven’t gone to Coalition for the Homeless yet, because they make you go early in the morning, regardless of the issue, and there isn’t much help provided.  Tony Taylor is still in charge, and all he had me do was fill out a grievance.  One guy at Eddie Harris complained about Tony Taylor all the time and said that any grievance you submit through him ends up in the circular file.  I do not know if this is true.  One of our regulars at Picture the Homeless said that Tony Taylor is the best person there, but that that is not saying much.

The point of this entry is not whether Coalition for the Homeless is a useful entity.  The point is that the shelter is contracted with the city to provide certain services for a certain amount of money.  If anyone is a welfare queen, it’s a shelter that does not provide the required services, which is a violation under the law.  It makes no sense to describe calling for obedience of the law “whiny.” After all, NYPD enjoys dealing with supposed violations of the law by strangling suspects who are not even committing the violation in question.  I am not asking for any of the shelter staff to be strangled, and as annoying as one particular case manager (who doesn’t work directly with me) is, I would not want it, either.  I just want them to comply with the law, and so far, none of my shelters have been in full compliance with the law, while still making a fortune off my presence that could have been used to put me in decent housing and get my belongings out of storage.  This is to what I am objecting.  I am being extremely reasonable.  It is the right-wingers, who want me to torture myself doing physical labor for a pittance, who are being unreasonable and whiny. My not working costs the average taxpayer a whopping $0.00000010286 each year (math done based on info at  Anyone who would rather me be in excruciating pain, going against the advice of doctors, and at an abnormally high probability of injury (relative to a non-disabled person at a similar job) to save themselves that amount of money, is more miserly than Ebeneezer Scrooge was before his encounter with the Ghosts of Christmas.

Shelters Should Be Sanitary

Thank You For Filling Out This Form

Shown below is your submission to on Friday, October 10, 2014 at 12:48:54

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Message Type: Complaint
Topic: Other
Contact Info: Yes
M/M: Mr.
First Name: Scott
Middle Name: A
Last Name: Hutchins
Company: The Bowery Mission
Street Address: 45-51 Ave D
Address Number: 306
City: New York
State: NY
Postal Code: 10019
Country: United States
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Message: When I arrived at this shelter on August 4, there was no soap in the east restroom on the third floor. A few weeks later, I heard another resident complain to the janitor, and the empty soap bag was removed, leaving only the empty shell of the dispenser. Its been like that up to today. I dont like to use that restroom, anyway, because you have to straddle the toilet to give the door enough clearance so you can exit, but the other two bathrooms on the floor are now out of soap, too, and Im wondering if it will ever be replaced. One of these is often not usable because the seat will not stay up, causing some residents to urinate on it. I normally avoid that bathroom, (the last to run out of soap), too, for this reason, but hold the seat up when I do, although it makes it harder to get my clothes out of the way. All three restrooms are missing bulbs in one of the two fixtures. Having the bulb in the mirror fixture is more useful when shaving than the one on the ceiling.


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When I arrived at this shelter on August 4, there was no soap in the east restroom on the third floor. A few weeks later, I heard another resident complain to the janitor, and the empty soap bag was removed, leaving only the empty shell of the dispenser. It’s been like that up to today. I don’t like to use that restroom, anyway, because you have to straddle the toilet to give the door enough clearance so you can exit, but the other two bathrooms on the floor are now out of soap, too, and I’m wondering if it will ever be replaced. One of these is often not usable because the seat will not stay up, causing some residents to urinate on it. I normally avoid that bathroom, (the last to run out of soap), too, for this reason, but hold the seat up when I do, although it makes it harder to get my clothes out of the way. All three restrooms are missing bulbs in one of the two fixtures. Having the bulb in the mirror fixture is more useful when shaving than the one on the ceiling.

Breaking News: New York City Abolishes Slavery

Press release from the VOCAL website (

Commentary on my fight against the slave labor that was WEP to follow.


Contact: Alyssa Aguilera, 917-200-1446, or Jennifer Hadlock, 347-454-4842,

Human Resources Administration (HRA) Announces Historic Overhaul of Clinton-Era Welfare Policies



New York – Today, the Human Resources Administration (HRA) announced a historic overhaul of the agency’s employment plan. Under the leadership of Commissioner Steve Banks, HRA has moved forward a bold vison for supporting welfare recipients as they look for employment and break the cycle of poverty.

Major reforms include the phasing out of the demeaning, unpaid Work Experience Program (WEP) which mandates that welfare recipients work for no compensation in jobs that provide little to no job training or valuable work experience. The end to punitive policies and procedures that unfairly penalize welfare recipients and terminate benefits to the detriment of poor New Yorkers and their families. The embracing of harm reduction programs, so that people who misuse drugs or alcohol are supported and not penalized for substance use. Expanded access to appropriate education, job training and employment services for welfare recipients.

These policy reforms represent a culture shift at HRA. There is now a recognition that welfare recipients are not a monolith and their needs cannot be met wholesale. There are some people who are job-ready and need a light-touch from HRA, some who need education and training so they can be better prepared to enter the workforce and others who are unable to work because of chronic health issues or other types of employment limitations. All should be supported by HRA and we applaud the effort to move away from a failed “one-size-fits-all” approach.

The modifications to HRA policies announced today fit well with the De Blasio Administration’s other efforts to tackle income inequality and uplift poor New Yorkers. Polices like an expanded living wage, universal Pre-K, paid sick days, etc. are exactly the types of policy shifts that our city needs to unrelentingly combat the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

“After two decades of work to overturn callous welfare policies, I was moved to tears with the announcement of HRA reforms today. Under Mayor Guiliani, New York enacted some of the worst welfare policies ever created, that were then reproduced across the country, and eventually adopted by the federal government under President Clinton. Today, Commissioner Banks, along with the support of Mayor de Blasio, has refuted those policies and embraced an approach that will both combat poverty & income inequality, all while supporting the dignity of those in need.” Jennifer Flynn, Executive Director, VOCAL-NY

“My oldest son was in diapers when I started the journey with other mothers to end WEP, he is now almost 22 years old. I am excited about this historic moment in the City of New York. Thank you Commissioner Banks for having the courage to return humanity and dignity to people living in poverty receiving social services.” Sandra Killett, Community Voices Heard Member-Leader and Former Welfare Recipient

“As someone who is on Public Assistance, I was glad to review the Proposed Employment Plan by HRA to be submitted by Commissioner Steve Banks. I was very pleased to read extensive changes being proposed in the areas of obtaining Education and Paid Training. This along with finally replacing unpaid the Work Experience Program (WEP) with Training Vouchers, Internships and Apprenticeships will definitely improve the broken cycle of poverty that exists in New York City.  The former policies against low-income people of color and the extremely poor of New York City has been too long destructive and dehumanizing, increasing the gap between the Rich and Poor. Finally, we have a New York City Mayor De Blasio and HRA Commissioner Steve Banks restoring the rich history of New York as a beacon of hope for all working families, immigrants and extremely poor to once again be part of a united metropolis. New York City was once the place of dreams for the world, let us begin to make this happen,” John Medina, a Board Member with Community Voices Heard and Welfare Recipient


Press Release


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