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Eddie Harris Men’s Shelter: Embezzlement for Fun and Profit

October 9, 2012

On Thursday, October 4, 2012, I visited Picture the Homeless for the first time, and was given their pamphlet Banking on Vacancy: Homelessness and Real Estate Speculation. On page 10 of this pamphlet, it states that the city pays shelters $3,500 a month for every person in the shelter. Multiplied by 12, that comes out to $42,000 per year, more than I have ever made in a year with my eight years of higher education.

Let’s break down what that $42,000 pays for:

  • A cot with a beanbag mattress (very bad for the back) in a room shared with 1-3 other men.
  • A 4 x 2 x 2 locker.  All personal property must be placed in the locker when leaving the facility or it will be confiscated and discarded by the management
  • There are 5 shower stalls, 2 sinks, and 2 toilets on my floor of the shelter.  I am frequently made late my others monopolizing the sink for 10-20 minutes.  Sometimes, one of the two restrooms is locked for no apparent reason other than to amuse the staff.
  • Very small portions of food, heavily rationed, such as 4 ounce cups of “juice” that are 15% juice and mostly water and high fructose corn syrup. Twenty minutes into the meal period, there is often no more food.  The administration generally
  • Food so unhealthy that my last blood test had my cholesterol and uric acid at alarming levels where they had never previously been.  I had been nearly vegetarian and made it a practice never to eat red meat prior to entering the shelter. Red meat makes up predominant meals.  For example, today for bag lunch, I was given a cold hamburger (the shelter falsifies its records, stating that today’s meal was a chicken patty), a spoiled orange, 15% cranberry juice beverage (4 oz), and a whoopie pie that never survives the journey.
  • 1 500-sheet roll of Tork toilet paper per week with the clean linens that are provided each Wednesday.
  • Four computers available for four hours per week (Mondays and (not through) Fridays 2-4PM) , 1 hour per week per person. I go elsewhere.

Things that Coalition for the Homeless told me that the shelter is required by law to provide, but does not:

  • Hand soap in every restroom
  • Paper towels in every restroom
  • Clean plates for seconds.  The shelter intentionally spreads disease by insisting upon reusing the styrofoam plates for meals, and no effort is made to keep the serving spoon from hitting each used plate multiple times.
  • Laundry detergent
  • Money for doing laundry if the laundry room is out, as it was for the first five weeks I was there.  I arrived around 3 in the morning on June 5, 2012 after being transferred from Bellevue.  I’m told that the laundry room had been out of order since early May. It was restored around July 1.  Currently, one of the four washing machines does not work, and they never open the laundry room before 3 PM (posted open at 9), so those who stay in the rec room during the day are left in competition with those who leave.  It is posted closed on Sunday and Thursday, again for no apparent reason.
  • Toilet paper, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc. upon request. the shelter insists that it is their policy to give  these out only upon intake.  I received any only because I asked, and never got the shampoo for which I specifically asked.  I did get two travel-sized tubes of Dawn Mist brand toothpaste, which is made with saccharine.
  • A group outing once per month.  I probably would not go on one if they had them, but the fact that the money is being pocketed by the shelter administration very much angers me.
  • $35 per month for a phone allowance.  Eddie Harris Shelter neither allows us to use the phone, nor supplies us with mobile phones, nor allows us to charge our phones.  New York City Department of Homeless Services alleges that this is a system-wide policy to prevent fires because the  buildings are old and not wired properly.  For $42,000 per year per person, this is an unacceptable response and a failure to do their job in assisting us into employment and independence.
  • Although there is paid janitorial staff, much of the work is foisted upon the residents of the shelter.
  • There may be many other things that I don’t know about.

The director of the Eddie Harris Shelter drives a $65,000 SUV.  I am told that the directors of other shelters commonly drive very expensive cars, and that embezzlement of funds by shelter administrations is rampant.

As someone with eight years of higher education, there is no reason that the government cannot supply me with a $42,000 job.  Money that the shelter receives should be used to pay off my student loans, not line the wallets of the administration.  this is why arguments that hold that I should be responsible for my student loans even in the face of bankruptcy are so disingenuous.  I lived far better when I was receiving loan money for housing.  Now I deal with an underpaid staff that is of no use to me and has nothing to help me.  Ms. Laurence, the housing specialist, is so stupid that she thinks there is more work related to my major in Jacksonville and that it makes more sense to take a 2-day temp job than to interview for a really good permanent job, especially if you don’t get offered the permanent job.  Part of this $42,000 should also be used to pay the $289 tax debt I still owe in spite of earning poverty wages every year of my adult life.

This $42,000 doesn’t account for the astronomical amount of money that the Human Resources Administration must spend to put me in a one-size-fits all job program that know how to place people only into retail and food service jobs, after their own doctor said that I can work only in a desk job.  The methodology at work here seems to be to force me back into the Work Experience Program (WEP).  When I was in WEP in 2006, I received $73 biweekly plus Metrocards to do slave labor in the administrative offices of Housing Works Thrift Shop.  The program said that if Housing Works liked me, they would hire me, while Housing Works made clear that they did like me, but it was not in their budget to offer me a job. This was the same story for everyone else in the program to whom I spoke.  I am currently in the second week of a fast-track program at ResCare, 25 Elm Place, Brooklyn, in which WEP is waived for three weeks for people who have the motivation, training, computer skills, and resumes ready to work.  To date, I have not seen a job developer, and the in-house jobs database has “retail” and “food service” as the only selections.  This is really obscene, considering these jobs don’t pay enough to pay rent anywhere in the area, let alone accounting for my medical issues.

I hereby accuse Eddie Harris Men’s Shelter/Bushwick Economic Development Corporation of embezzlement, although I don’t have the money to file an actual case in court.  I want to raise the ire of the populace as to the misusage of funds by HRA and DHS.  This is why CUNY schools are no longer free.  It is to allow for the few to make a huge profit.  HRA bounced their check to my storage unit last week, so I’m left holding the bag while 60% of my monthly unemployment insurance is required to go into a savings account and remain untouched so that I can pay for the deposit of a new apartment.  If the second check bounces, I will be in severe trouble with the shelter, because I am not going to allow my account to stay delinquent and risk the loss of everything I own while Eddie Harris Shelter profiteers from my presence there.

  1. mike permalink

    Utter Garbage. While there are concerning issues at all shelters, the main problems are the shelter clients who are hell bent on a free ride. statistics prove that most are caught up in the drug life. The mentally ill and handicapped you can’t fault. you also have widespread non-compliance. Being homeless does not mean you are helpless. you have to do some things for yourself. Be a man.

    • Your comments are worthless. As someone who is in the shelter because my degrees aren’t getting me work and I cannot do physical labor (concurred by more than 30 doctors and other health care workers), I am more qualified to say what goes on in the shelter than you are, and have every right to complain about its multiple violations and thefts. Nothing you have said supplies evidence for your description of my post as “utter garbage,” which makes your reply intellectually dishonest. If my post is garbage, you need to provide some evidence refuting my claims, and not some weasel word-laden “statistics prove.”

    • And by “physical labor,” I mean any job that can’t be done sitting down.

    • Statistics prove that only 34% of homeless people are drug addicts.

  2. I am really thankful to the holder of this website who
    has shared this impressive post at at this time.

  3. Jennifer Cruz permalink

    Anyone talking literally bite your toungue because you sound foolish as hell. Some people have no choice but to be in a shelter not everyone is fortunate to have a home. My father lived in the shelter 15 years, he worked saved money and it was all stolen by his case workers who were supposed to be helping him its 2016 & guess what now theres no laundry service at all they dont give anything at all barely any food at all there putting people in the streets at 5:30am in 10° weather. The shelter system has been corrupted for years and its time for a change remember the name because im about to make alot of noise.

    • Now I’m employed at $12.60 an hour, and they’re trying to get me to give up my storage to rent a tiny, overpriced room. They’ve promised they’ll let me work around it, because I don’t want to give up the contents of my storage, which is $275 per month. The job should be paying twice what it does, but half my wage goes to a temp agency, and people have been temping at this place (MTA) for over four years.

  4. don’t worry…. your ship is coming in… Just hope it does before the rest of the system crashes… a bank-in could destroy businesses and what not. What happens when the bodega can’t get credit to stock food on the shelves??

  5. Lisa trapani permalink

    I to was in the Eddie Harris facility from 1998-2001 November 16,2001 after I had my daughter but at that time it was a couple shelter, that each couple had their own rooms. Everything you are saying about the Eddie Harris are all true. They did care about us only what they got paid for our stay. The food was disgusting bathrooms horrible they didn’t try to help us i had a baby so they transferred me to the Baruch houses in Baruch place lower east side, i had to climb 5 flights of stairs with a baby carriage, i was in terrible places like Catherine street arburn, the Arlington, the living room that you sleep sitting up on a chair, Hamilton hotel etc. Does ms. Jasper coco Julian still work there
    Eddie Harris is the worse shelter now and back then when it was a couple shelter

    • I was there for only six months in 2012 before I was transferred. Ms. Jasper sounds familiar, but I didn’t learn to many staff names.

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