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Threats of Violence at Eddie Harris Men’s Shelter

November 19, 2012

At Wednesday night’s meeting, the director, Ms. Hughette Jasper, was proud that, unlike some shelters, no one has left in a body bag during her tenure.  While that may be true, every time the shelter serves its filthy hard boiled eggs, someone ends up in the emergency room with food poisoning.  It happened to me back in June, and it generally happens to newbies who don’t know better than to eat the eggs that are served to us.

Their favorite thing to serve us is bologna.  They gave it to us at both breakfast and lunch today.  It was also in my bagged lunch on Friday.  I gave it to the aforementioned Union Square homeless artist who calls herself Rainbow.  Saturday she had a cardboard sign out that said that she was not feeling well and suspected food poisoning.  After visiting Forbidden Planet and Strand Books and leaving empty-handed, I saw her asleep, and put some money in her cup to assuage my guilt.  I rarely carry cash, and only had some because someone who had heard about my situation decided to give me a $20 bill, and I gave some of what I had left to Rainbow without her knowing.  I had given her my shelter bologna in the past while she was asleep, but I don’t think she got hurt that time.  I didn’t get hurt the first time I had the hard boiled eggs, though.  I have also given the leftover bologna to a couple I often see there, and to a man who is often in the Flatbush Avenue station.  They’re fine.  I saw the couple last night and the man this morning.

We have a Vietnam vet who is staying there until a bed becomes available at a veterans’ shelter.  He is white and has been accused repeatedly of being racist because he took affront to the racist actions of shelter staff and requested a white caseworker.  He said that he responded this by pulling out a photo of himself and his late wife, a black woman from Barbados.  He is allergic to fish.  The shelter is legally required to provide him with an alternative entrée whenever fish is served.  They refuse to do this and tell him to just eat the vegetables.  People with diabetes have to fight the shelter system hard for an alternative meal, so I don’t even address the red meat issue.  I try to avoid it when possible, particularly the veal and the pork, but eat the beef when I have to, even though I normally wouldn’t.  Processed meat like bologna, and red meat in general, is a very dangerous food that I can only imagine they serve us so much because of its dangerous characteristics. ( In the two weeks I was at Bellevue, I discovered that the breakfast sausages they served were made of chicken, although I still didn’t eat them, since I don’t like sausage at all, and the main dish at nearly every meal was chicken.  They served us TV dinners that actually listed the ingredients.  The only thing we had that had any beef were some meatballs made from both chicken and beef that were served with spaghetti.

Last night, dinner was the “lightly dusted chicken,” and it was worse than ever–three one-inch-long strips of chicken in burned breading that had hints of turpentine.  To top it off, they were too lazy to open the “dining room” and made us eat in the rec room, which was standing room only.  We have a newbie there who kept insisting that the food at Eddie Harris is better than the food at Bellevue.  He wasn’t so sure he wanted to make the case after this meal.  I didn’t stay for seconds, went out for food, but came back empty-handed because I didn’t want to spend $7-8  for a sandwich (plus ATM fees, since few stores in the neighborhood take cards so that they can profit from the ATMs), and I wasn’t going to buy a $5 Little Caesar’s pizza, since it would be three meals’ worth of food I have no way to save.

As I was leaving today, the big security guard who usually gives me two lunches complained that I was talking about staff members by name on his blog.  I’ve never mentioned his name on the blog (I don’t even know it–they don’t wear badges or introduce themselves, so I know few of the security staff by name).  A female voice from the office said that I could expect to get physically attacked when I am outside the building, and ordered the guy to give me only one lunch (the aforementioned bologna, probably poisoned).

I said, “If you don’t want people reporting you, don’t break the law.”  I don’t know what to expect when I return home.  Threatening me with violence certainly is reflective of cowardice on their part.  they told me I had no right to name names.  I have every right to name names of staff who are doing their jobs improperly and illegally and should be fired.  People who break the law on their jobs have no right to have them.  I’ve lost plenty of jobs, and never committed the sorts of crimes that the staff of Eddie Harris shelter commits.  I don’t know if she intends to bring in a significant other or have the shelter staff act as SS troops the way King Bloomberg does with the NYPD against Occupy.

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