Project Renewal=Project Stagnation
I have never met this person and do not know if I have even seen this person, so this is in no way a personal attack, but Project Renewal has a culinary arts specialist named Barbara Hughes, Executive Chef. I question her competence to do the job in every way.
Monday night, I left the public library around 5 PM and thought that I could get back to the shelter in time for dinner before the 6 PM class at church. After all, it’s a mere 3 stops on the D line. When I arrived at the shelter around 5:20, only about 10 people had been served. The rest were in a very long line for the food, which involved standing in one place for more than five minutes at a time. Project Renewal houses 170 men and has five food line servers–3 at the hot food counter, one doing nothing but serving bread and butter, and one pouring drinks from a large Home Depot dispenser.
Eddie Harris Men’s Shelter, by contrast, houses 105 and usually has one food line server with a bit of pitching in by the security guard to give us sealed drink cups and desserts. At breakfast at Eddie Harris, if you’re 20 minutes into the breakfast hour, you’re lucky if they have anything left. They were better about dinner, because many of us were in job programs that required us to be present at them until 5 PM, so if you arrived around 5:30 or 5:45, there was still food for you.
By the time I was finally served dinner Monday evening, it was 5:47, and there was still a huge line of people behind me. As I got closer to the servers, they were stopping to gab and getting distracted at every moment, stopping work entirely to look at something. Dinner consisted of a conjoined thigh-leg of barbecue chicken, yams, spinach, vanilla pudding, and cherry Kool-Aid. It took five people more than an hour to serve 170 men, whereas 1 maintenance person at Eddie Harris could serve 105 men in under ten minutes. Something is seriously wrong when there is that sort of time discrepancy. I arrived 16 minutes into the hour-long class at church.
Tuesday morning, I awoke well before lights-on with severe diarrhea, going back to my bed for about ten minutes at a time before another attack sent me rushing back to the bathroom. On subsequent trips, I discovered the need to vomit. This is the eighth and worst time I have had diarrhea, and the first time vomiting, since my arrival at this shelter around 10:45 PM on November 20. The seventh time was Monday morning, but that does not count because it was very mild, and I had not eaten at the shelter at all on Sunday, having had breakfast at church, lunch (only a milkshake) with church friends at a diner, and dinner at a church friend’s Twelfth Night Party (one of the rare times it actually fell on Twelfth Night).
When I finally got my system stabilized enough that I no longer needed to worry about losing control, I turned on my phone and saw that it was 8:33. We’re supposed to clear the floor by 8 AM, and it is mandatory to be off the floor by 9. Since I didn’t get started until 8:33 (entirely missing breakfast), I was found in the bathroom around 9:20 preparing to leave for my mandatory health evaluation with FEGS WeCare to see if I have the work limitations that I claim. I was written up for being on the dorm floor, in spite of the extenuating circumstances. I doubt any of those on the food serving line will be written up for either uncleanliness (at least at Eddie Harris it was easy to determine what foods spread salmonella, which was mostly the eggs with the brown albumen from being cooked in dirty water–recall that Eddie Harris had 29 health violations in 2010, and probably hasn’t improved their score) or lack of speed, and the staff does such a piss-poor job enforcing the anti-smoking policy (which is supposed to result in a write-up of anyone found smoking inside the building) that my pajamas reek of tobacco from the incessant smoking in the bathroom. I don’t snitch on this sort of thing because I’m more concerned about my short-term safety than my long-term health at this point. There is a far greater percentage of ex-cons and ex-junkies at this shelter than at Eddie Harris (to the point that some residents refuse to believe that I’ve never used illegal drugs), and I got beaten up there in front of security cameras that Project Renewal largely lacks.
When I first met with my caseworker, she gave me her business card with her phone number and e-mail address. Some weeks later, I e-mailed her about getting a bag lunch. The big guy who gave me the coat said that I could ask my caseworker, and they would provide bag lunches. I received a response that there had been a policy change and that caseworkers were no longer allowed to respond to client e-mails, but only in-person and by phone. Surely, this means that they are concerned about the figurative paper trail an e-mail could leave. When I met with my caseworker, I was denied a bag lunch on the grounds that I am not employed. The facts that at Eddie Harris bag lunches were standard issue for those going on job searches and I do my job search too far away to return to the shelter for lunch are apparently meaningless. She told me that I could request to speak with the director regarding this and the offensive laundry policy that violates the spirit if not the letter of DHS policy in regard to laundry by getting a pass during business hours. Hopefully, I will get a job soon and be able to move out, so I simply go to Brooklyn College and get on the computers there, where, of course, I can announce the antics of staff misbehavior to the world via this blog. And yes, shelter residents do stupid things, too. This shelter is primarily one of junkies and ex-cons, whereas Eddie Harris was primarily cane-dependent disabled, working poor, and job seeking poor–everything from actors to office workers to computer programmers to construction workers. I’ve seen fights in the dining area, and one guy who reminded me of Christian Clavier in Les Visiteurs grunted “excuse me” (if you’ve seen the film, you can guess what he sounded like saying it, even if you don’t speak French) and squeezed in to brush his teeth at the sink at which I was in front and trying to extract an eyelash from my eye, when the bathroom’s four other sinks were completely unoccupied. Why he was territorial for that sink is beyond me.
On Friday, I was called about a temp job as an assistant editor for medical related material. The recruiter brought me in Monday and expected to be able to send me on an interview. I got a 100% raw score on the editing test that they gave me, and the recruiter cared more about that than the 73% final score–I was marked down for making pedantic English teacher corrections–spelling out “Street” and “Oregon” on the address (I was taught that postal abbreviations go on the envelope because that’s what the post office likes, but not on a formal business letter) and making it so a sentence didn’t start with “however.” Maybe it was the festering impetigo on my face, but he told me that he called the client and reported back to me that she had found some people on her own to interview and did not want to see another person unless she was dissatisfied with those. He told me he almost never gets editorial positions in and felt that I was kind of overqualified for that position to begin with (his concern was only that I would not be willing to accept pay that low), but I told him that I could take clerical/administrative work if it became available, and he thanked me for being flexible. I haven’t heard anything more as of this writing (Wednesday around 11 AM).
Yesterday, I went to the mandatory appointment at FEGS WeCare. Since closing my case because of my previous job, from which I was laid off, HRA needed to know that my medical status had not changed. The doctor was more thorough than the one at Arbor WeCare was on August 31, checking up on much more of the claims of back problems than the last one did, but still coming to the same conclusion–that I can work only in a desk job. She also added that I need to be near a restroom, but that’s a bit of overkill.
It seems that my unemployment insurance was reinstated when Congress was concerned about the so-called “fiscal cliff” and that none of this was actually necessary, because all I actually need from HRA are food stamps and Medicaid rather than full case cash assistance, also known as welfare, but the slowness of processing things and sending documents through the mail creates no end of confusion on these things. The latest document that HRA has is that my unemployment insurance was to be cut off on December 30 barring an act of Congress, but my remaining balance got higher shortly beforehand.
My Medicaid was cut off on December 31, so when I was diagnosed with impetigo on January 3, I was not allowed to obtain the medicine, which the pharmacy told me was $155 out of pocket. Yesterday, I spent over 3 hours at Bellevue, a public hospital, and was finally able to get the tube of mupirocin (generic for Bactriban) for free. When I arrived at David Friedman’s class late (and not having had dinner), he quipped that I should be at Bellevue–although it’s a full service hospital with an emergency room, cancer center, outpatient clinics, and even the intake homeless shelter, in New York City it’s looked upon as a madhouse because it has mental wards. That sort of quip doesn’t mean much from David, who knows about and encourages this blog and is aware of the idiots who comment on it, since he, now 62, was in a mental institution from age 20-22, years of his life that he would not trade because of how they helped his current work with The Thought Exchange. He details all this in his book of that title, so I’m not disclosing private information by mentioning this.
While, using empirical evidence, I deny all responsibility for being jobless and homeless, while making every effort to end both those situations for myself, David had me take on the thought that I am 100% responsible for the reform of the New York City shelter system. With Peter Kellogg, he created a musical (working titles have included Stunt Girl and Front Page Girl) about Nellie Bly, a journalist whose first big project was getting herself committed to a mental institution so that she could write about its horrible, dehumanizing nature from the inside, bringing about reforms to mental health care. In the same way, I seek to inform readers of this blog of the horrible conditions within the New York City shelter system, and what $3,500 in city money per person per month pays for within the shelters. Thus far, my only attackers have been imbeciles who think (without merit) that the current situation is more reasonable than the city paying for me to have a comparable apartment to the one for which I paid $981.93 monthly until my savings ran out and I could not get enough hours from tutoring to continue to pay for it, resulting in my eviction. That space is available has been proven by Picture the Homeless. That the city pays shelters $3,500 per month for each resident (plus additional for those with documented mental illnesses, which in spite of the armchair diagnosticians who read this blog, no mental health professional who has examined me has found me to have) has also been proven by Picture the Homeless. With 170 beds, that means that Project Renewal has a minimum operating budget of $595,000 per month.
There is absolutely no excuse for Project Renewal to rake in $7,140,000 per year based on the disease-riddled flophouse that they run. A Department of Homeless Services Client Advocacy Office employee hung up on me when I asked her how she could not understand that bacteria in an unclean pillow can easily get through a pillowcase. This is what happens when government becomes run like a business. It’s not about providing necessary services–it’s about making money. This is capitalism at its worst, at the time that it needs to be converted to communism.
Marx developed communism, although the idea had always existed in some form throughout the history of civilization, as a corrective for capitalism. The social democracies in Europe and Japan have the right idea and are moving closer to it. A landlord in his eighties who attended the Longest Night service on December 21 said that on a bicycle ride though Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, he made a deliberate effort to find homeless people, and could find none until he reached a city in southern Sweden, where a man was living in a park because he burned out on drugs the monthly stipend he received from the bank. A situation like mine, an educated person reduced to poverty from being offered only short-term, part-time, low-wage work, is completely unknown in social democracies and indicative of the moral and ethical decadence of capitalist society, since I have cited numerous sources showing that situations like mine are on the increase and hardly unique to myself.
Communism cannot be said to have failed where it has been tried, because Marx himself saw communism as a corrective or reform for capitalism and encouraged the rise of capitalism in areas with feudal economies, such as Russia and China, knowing full well that a jump from feudalism to communism, as those countries did, would result in failure, because only capitalism could set up the infrastructure for a communist system to succeed. The time for capitalism in America has passed. It has done its job by setting up the infrastructure and degenerated into crony capitalism by unethical souls who put profits over people and outsource to countries with inferior wage and safety laws.