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Shown below is your submission to NYC.gov on Friday, October 10, 2014 at 12:48:54
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|NAME of FIELDS||DATA|
|Company:||The Bowery Mission|
|Street Address:||45-51 Ave D|
|Work Phone #:|
|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.
Press release from the VOCAL website (http://www.vocal-ny.org/press-release/pr-hra-announces-historic-overhaul-of-clinton-era-welfare-policies/):
Commentary on my fight against the slave labor that was WEP to follow.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 1, 2014
Human Resources Administration (HRA) Announces Historic Overhaul of Clinton-Era Welfare Policies
HRA TO PHASE OUT MANDATED UNPAID WORK PROGRAM FOR WELFARE RECIPIENTS;
ENDS PUNITIVE POLICIES AND “ONE-SIZE FITS ALL” PROCEDURES.
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
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is another book to add to the mountain of evidence that my homelessness is absolutely and entirely the fault of others. I graduated from college in 1999 and earned my master’s in 2005. Ehrenreich began this book in 2001 and published it in 2005. Every single person she profiled in the book was older at the time than I am now (38) and had higher salaries than I’ve ever earned ($50-60,000 range–the only time I got even close to the equivalent hourly rate my hours were in the single digits), and every single one of them ended up either doing a low-to-minimum wage job that I can’t do (I am medically limited to a desk job on account of scoliosis that went undiagnosed until 2005 when I was 29, L4-L5-S1 herniated discs, neurogenic bladder, sciatica in both legs, and plantar fasciitis in both feet, and have difficulty standing for more than very short periods, and use a cane if I expect to stand for more than an hour, and spasms that make the cane absolutely necessary–Social Security says someone with my age, education, and experience is not disabled by their standards because I can work a desk job, and Binder and Binder was no help, saying that the only way they could help me get SSD is if I got a doctor to write a note explaining why I can’t do a desk job, either, which isn’t true) or they have moved back in with their parents–my father passed away. As of September 2014, I have been homeless for 28 months after I was betrayed by a graduate school colleague who had me relocate for an $18,000 probationary salary and then let me go after three months, knowing at the time that he hired me I had been in housing court because I had lost the entirety of my savings to rent as I unsuccessfully searched for jobs that have seemingly all been exported to his native India.
Some of the critics of this book assert that Ehrenreich used false credentials that undermine her hirability, and while that is true (although her actual credentials are certainly the transferable skills they tell us are so important), she never really even got to the interview phase, and that doesn’t say anything in regard to the other people she met and discussed along the way. Another critic on here attacked her for complaining about religion at the faith-based groups. She mostly restricted this to those that were religious but did not explicitly advertise themselves as such (one used the word “fellowship” as the only clue for an event in the banquet hall of a Shoney’s, and proved itself to be racist and anti-Semitic as well as religious (128-131)), although she does criticize the way the majority of them send extremely contradictory messages.
I did find it laughable when she said the number of applications that she’d done being over a hundred. I have been tracking my job applications in an Excel file since the month prior to losing my job and becoming homeless. As of yesterday’s applications, I am on line 2,799. I have had 24 interviews in that time, ten of which were with staffing services, and many of the others were scams that had me wanting to bolt to the door but waiting for a socially acceptable moment without agreeing to anything.
Like Ehrenreich, at the time I was in housing court, I was presented with the AFLAC scam (train to work at AFLAC entirely at your own expense and working from your home office) at a similarly-decorated office in the Bronx. State Farm has been trying the same thing lately, as has Liberty Tax Service.
As someone without Ehrenreich’s money, but whose experience and ability is entirely in white collar work, I have experienced a lot of what she describes in this book, much of it foisted on me by the Department of Labor while I was on unemployment or various government subcontractors such as FEGS, Arbor WeCare, Project Renewal, etc. On my own, I went to a Career Clout meetup group (which is also an advertising ploy, hammered home when I attended a second meeting), which obviously had impact on her, because she mentions the career coach having her develop PAR statements (92). This system was developed by a guy named Lloyd Feinstein (sounds too much like Lloyd Blankfein for my liking) and stands for problem/action/response. The Career Clout style is intended to gear your resume toward hiring managers and to go above the heads of HR, but 99% of people don’t have the clout to reach over the heads of HR straight to the hiring manager. Even addressing the hiring manager by name in the cover letter is ineffective. I was doing that in every cover letter during my first year of homelessness (2012), and I got shot down a lot, not to mention all the people who kept telling me that the PAR setup is too negative to work, in spite of Career Clout’s very logical assertion that the employer hires people to solve problems.
The first part of the book deals with Barbara Alexander’s (she went job searching under her maiden name) dealings with three embarrassing career coaches, the incredibly upbeat and vapid Kimberly who is obsessed with MBTI, the validity of which Ehrenreich does an excellent job at skewering as no more valid than astrology (32-34, 227) via Annie Murphy Paul‘s The Cult of Personality: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children Mismanage Our Companies and Misunderstand Ourselves; Morton, who uses Enneagrams and very bad Wizard of Oz analogies (and I write this review as the L. Frank Baum (not that the MGM Wizard of Oz movie that is best known to the general public is anywhere close to Baum’s vision and themes) expert that Ehrenreich professes that she is not, and an allusion to the origin of the Tin Woodman on page 19 seems to epitomize one of the themes taken up in the book. Often, Nick Chopper would say that he was “careless” in having cut himself apart, knowing full well at the time of the telling that his ax was under a spell), and Joanne, who seems relatively reasonable (who is more a resume expert than a job developer, but says that lying on the resume is par for the course, but is in fact someone just trying to eke a living after her husband got–you guessed it–downsized.
Eventually she makes her way to the self-proclaimed inventor of Career Coaching, Patrick Knowles, and her portrayal of him as a pathetic failure is even more palpable than Patrick Swayze’s performance as the mad and pedophilic guru Jim Cunningham in Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko. Knowles’s behavior with Cynthia, while not pedophilic, is almost as disturbing (78). This is probably the best part of the book, and where Ehrenreich displays incredible gifts as a writer, more than her uses of words that I, an English major (Ehrenreich states that hers was chemistry), had to look up in the dictionary — “moue” (114) and “koan” (153). She then follows another bit of advice that I have never been able to do successfully, and at which Barbara Alexander also failed–turning the tables on someone and making their meeting with you into an episode in which you aggressively prove to them that they need your services. I have never heard of this sort of aggression working in real life actually working, and the Guerrilla Marketing gurus that keep e-mailing me can provide only one definitive example–a guy who worked on a construction site uninvited. Given my physical condition, were I to try this, all it would do is result in a lot of insurance headaches for the employer I had chosen as my victim. I asked for white collar examples of something like this (I’ve heard the story more than once, and believe it is probably apocryphal), and so far, none have been forthcoming. In 2013, I alerted Marvel Comics that the previous year I had applied to an assistant editor position for which proofreading was a major component of the job, but that an early issue of Morbius, the Living Vampire (a title on which I would have loved to have worked, though it was canceled after only nine issues) that somehow “bare with me” had made it into the dialogue, which makes no sense in a scene between two straight men. It was in a word balloon and not a message, so the error can’t be attributed to a character. This didn’t get any more of a response than my three attempts to get permission to move forward with my opera based on The Man-Thing, which thus far exists only in sheet music notebooks until I can find singers unafraid to sing texts that are, legally speaking, plagiarized, albeit with credit. She likens the career coaching field to Eric Fromm’s novel, Escape from Freedom, “which was an attempt to understand the appeal of fascism” (89).
Her assault on networking is merciless:
Why, when job searching could be totally rationalized by the Internet through a simple matching of job seeker’s skills to company needs, does everything seem to depend on this old-fashioned, face-to-face networking? After all, there’s going to be an interview anyway, right?
“It’s about trust,” Ron answers opaquely, not to mention “likability.” “The higher up you get in the executive ranks the more things depend on being likable. You’ve got to fit in.”
…It’s distracting to think that our major economic enterprises, on which the livelihoods and well-being of millions depend, rest so heavily on the thin goo of “likability.”
Getting up in the executive ranks as a result of “likability” is our society in self destruct mode, since, as Cathy O’Neill points out, that’s what got Tim Geithner into position to destroy the global economy to begin with. And Ehreinreich even has Jim Lukaszewski admit on page 159, that CEOs are out of touch, isolated, and “idle,” that is, lazy. The highest-paid people in white collar employment are the laziest. Those of us scrambling unsuccessfully to find employment are dubbed lazy by our now-Orwellian society, while those on the right, who do the most name calling, love CEOs and generally refuse to admit that they do little or no actual work.
The Gap gets capitalized both when she mentions her clothing from said store and when dealing with what she finds to be insurmountable in terms of the resume. I’ve covered mine by describing myself as a freelancer with clients (all real, unlike Ehrenreich’s), to no avail. She discusses invisibility and futility (171) in spite of her ENTJ MBTI result (mine is INTJ, which is supposedly only 1% of the population, which ought to make me extremely desirable as an employee, except that the “diversity” that employers claim that they want is illusory, as Ehrenreich details on page 229), which went from being desirable to “like all those fairy-tale characters who are unfortunate to get what they wished for from an overly literal-minded wish granter” (my favorite example of this is the DC horror story in which a guy gives his soul to Satan for a copy of every comic book ever published and a house big enough to hold them all, only to be suffocated by the delivery down the chimney of every comic book ever published throughout the entire universe). One guy tries to hobnob at the Capital Grille (spelled Capitol Grill), an upscale restaurant, as a waiter, also unsuccessfully (172). I went into one of these places with Monica Hunken and others on September 17, 2012, singing about getting money out of politics and was forced to leave by the staff. The New York Times shows that this businesses is doing extremely well because it caters to the wealthy, while businesses that cater to the middle class are failing.
Then she gets into the complete uselessness of job fairs, which are strictly for sales jobs (198). No matter what industry they claim to be about, it’s always for sales within that industry. Nobody believes me when I tell them this, but here it is in a published book. I hate sales and have never been successful at it, even with things I believe in, like my own works of fiction and drama. I went to one for media jobs, and it was mostly door-to-door sales trying to get people to change their cable company. A 58-year-old out-of-work machinist who was one of my roommates in my previous shelter went to one of these job fairs, told me it was all sales, and said that the line was wrapped entirely around the block such that they kept it open long past the 3 PM stated ending time to be fair to everyone that arrived, though no employer was really equipped to recruit more than twenty people, and, as with every job fair I’ve attended, they tell you to apply through the website. They say that they’ll flag it because they met you, but given the number of applications these jobs get, I seriously doubt if that is true, nor did any of them actually respond when I applied, even the ones who gave me their e-mail address and told me to write to them when I had finished the online application.
The conclusion of the book, in which she talks about the people she met along the way in jobs standing all day at Home Depot or in heavily physical blue collar jobs for which no intelligent employer would hire me as an insurance liability (204-211), has Ehrenreich looking forward to the Occupy movement and its revolt against capitalism that was forced underground and declared dead by the right-wing controlled media. The messages she receives throughout the book are contradictory, and she ties these bits together (221). The abusiveness of a Patrick Knowles, with his EST-like (her comparison) method of blaming the victim (this portion really rang home with me–I am “Bill” in David Friedman‘s The Thought Exchange–David has been through EST, and it seems to be a definite influence on his continued teachings), who blames the victim with the circular reasoning that because “you” are the common denominator in everything that happens to you, it must therefore be “your” fault, a logic that they would conveniently ignore if someone as physically bullying as they are psychologically were to punch them in the face and insist it was their own fault. A friend who wants to get on Dr. Phil to expose the abusive nature of her family suggested that I do the same, but from what I know of Dr. Phil, it’s easy to construct a fantasy in which he tells me I’m the only one to blame for my circumstances, hitting him, then as I’m dragged off by security or the police, telling him how it’s entirely his fault he got punched and his hypocrisy at having me removed. Ehrenreich expresses a similar fantasy about “pummeling” Mike Hernacki, Bruce I. Doyle, and Patrick Knowles (85). This she contrasts with the churches’ more positive methods about alliance with God (Ehrenreich states her atheism (134); I have been in the Unity church since age 4, and both Unity and the Thought Exchange have been called “Buddhism for westerners,” and the term “metaphysical malpractice” is often used when EST-like blame is distributed by Unity congregants, especially among those who are new, or pick and choose scraps from various metaphysical sources, such as Rhonda Byrne. My minister, Paul Tenaglia, thought Nickel and Dimed was brilliant but decried Bright-Sided, which appeared four years after this and seems like it may have been inspired by Barbara Alexander’s experiences with Kimberly. She describes both, ultimately, as fantasies of omnipotence that insidiously, if not deliberately, work to prevent people from confronting the social and economic forces shaping their lives.
Ehrenreich reaches the conclusion that I, as an Occupier, reached early on in the book, the need for collective action against the system (237), even citing Marx on the instability of capitalism on page 217, after an earlier reference to Marxism on page 162. “When skilled and experienced people routinely find their skills unwanted and their experience discounted,” Ehrenreich says, “then something has happened that cuts deep into the very social contract that holds us together.” Indeed, if you notice my 2014 reading challenge, you’ll see a lot of collected editions of Golden Age comic books. The notions of democracy reflected in these bitterly anti-fascist tracts makes me as a contemporary reader incredibly cynical of how much our society has taken a turn for the worse. Right-wingers point out that the United States is not a democracy, but a Representative Republic. More accurately, it is a Non-Representative Republic based in corporatism, which Mussolini said was the same as fascism. On page 223, Ehrenreich notes that “the job-generating function ranked higher among corporate imperatives. CEOs were more likely to stand up to the board of directors and insist on retaining employees rather than boosting dividends in the short-term by laying people off.” She even cites Claire Giannini, the daughter of the founder of Bank of America, saying that in her father’s day, executives took pay cuts to avoid laying off staff. I’ve heard only of non-profits like my church doing such things. In 1960s comics, many a villain (such as Calvin Zabo/Mr. Hyde and Klaus Vorhees/The Cobra in Stan Lee‘s Thor) gets started because they are offered a plum job that they don’t deserve. Usually their employer has doubts but thinks that they can afford to be generous, and it usually results in their deaths. This sort of thing happens metaphorically every day with the Geithners of the world, but I find it astonishing how easily these overtly unqualified people get white collar jobs walking in off the street and wonder if it was equally implausible when the stories were first published. I’ve never been able to get past security with my resume, and when I was still living at home after college, my mother demanded that I use a literal pavement-pounding technique, and when it failed after weeks and weeks, it led to her aggression against me that made living with her not an option in either of our opinions. She could stand to read about these 45 year-olds in 2005 being forced to move back in with their parents. The economy hasn’t improved any since then. It’s been whitewashed with the numbers game, but the alternative media that is actually progressive has noted that all growth has been in minimum wage service sector jobs on an income that is not livable in even the poorest parts of Mississippi. I heartily endorse Ehrenreich’s conclusion, conservatively presented (“work for change”) as it is. I work with Occupy Wall Street Alternative Banking, Occu-Evolve, Picture the Homeless, and the New York City Community Land Initiative, so I cannot honestly be accused of being lazy, feckless, or not working, even though I remain unpaid and cannot afford to move out of a homeless shelter, even if I did do work that is abnormally excruciatingly painful for me. There are yahoos out there who think I should be forced to “contribute” in such a manner. In Germany, it’s illegal to fly the flag that represents their beliefs.