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Eddie Harris Men’s Shelter: Abusive to the Very End

November 21, 2012

Last night, I planned to go to the shelter and have dinner, then leave for David Friedman’s Discover Your Inner voice class. When I arrived, my log sheet was taken out of the binder, and I had to knock on the kitchen door to get dinner, because they held me upstairs. They called me back up on the PA, although I took about five more minutes to finish eating the incredibly dry chicken they served us. One of the caseworkers made me sign a sheet that I was being transferred to the 3rd street shelter in Manhattan. I signed it and packed up. I thought that they were going to drive me, having a backpack, a suitcase, an IKEA bag, and two plastic garbage bags, but they just gave me HopStop directions. The stated reason for the transfer was “administrative shelter transfer.” In other words, they were fed up with me publicizing their wrongdoings. Apparently, had the audacity to tell another resident that I was “a threat to the facility,” which no one found plausible until I mentioned this blog. I am a threat to the jobs of people who have no right to have them. No one should be paid to treat others like garbage, particularly people like me who have done nothing wrong but have physical challenges and chose a major with less demand.

As I attempted to get this vast load for one person with back problems down the sidewalk, several people from the shelter, including the Vietnam vet (who said that I shouldn’t be sent to 3rd Street because it is for detox and people over 45 years old), advised me to call 911, because it was a violation of DHS policy to make me carry my luggage to the subway after dark. Unfortunately, after waiting over an hour, the staff first lied to the police saying that I had been given a Metrocard, then offered to give me one when I said that they hadn’t given me one. I said that I don’t need a Metrocard, but needed to have a vehicle to carry the luggage without racing the train doors, so they offered the alternative of leaving my belongings in the basement, but I have never trusted them. The cops said that the shelter doesn’t own a van. I kept asking the four NYPD officers, including a sergeant, what the van in the driveway was. They remained silent, refusing to answer my question.

Bushwick is apparently a more hospital neighborhood than the Lower East Side. I got multiple offers of assistance from both black and white people. When I finally made it to the Lower East Side, no one offered any assistance, and I didn’t arrive at the shelter until around 10:45.

My first impression of this shelter, Project Renewal, is not very good. They don’t have rooms you share with one or two other people, just half-height divider walls. It could be worse. One floor has a mezzanine where all clients can be viewed constantly, but I wasn’t put there. They supplied me with a few toiletries, but no toilet paper, when I specifically said that that was the one toiletry item that I needed, which I had been planning to buy after class, even though Wednesday is TP distribution at Eddie Harris. I was given one sheet, one blanket, and one pillowcase, but no pillow, and a towel only big enough to be a hand towel. They said that they were out of pillows, which strikes me as rank incompetence, since they know how many beds are in the shelter. At least the restrooms have soap and hand dryers. At Eddie Harris, illegally, you must use your bath soap and your bath towel, because they will not put dispensers in or otherwise stock the restrooms with these basic essentials. I normally never use the restroom without washing my hands, but it became de rigeur at Eddie Harris, and it doesn’t help that the men’s room sink on the first floor at at the Brooklyn College library (where I am continuing to get my Internet access) doesn’t work, but if I walk back to the entrance, I can at least get hand sanitizer, or use a different restroom, although it seems like I have to try several due to cleaning closures.

I didn’t sleep well. The dorm is lit by a red light, I had no pillow, and I got a warning from an Eddie Harris tenant before I left not to leave my shoes by my bed, so I slept in them instead of the night splints, which remained in the plastic bag under the bed. Hopefully, since these look like garbage, nothing will happen to them. (And hopefully the staff knows that it’s supposed to be there–leaving anything outside your locker at either Bellevue or Eddie Harris normally gets those items discarded. After initially trying to ignore them, I did eventually take my contact lenses out. I erroneously reported that my $12 bottle of contact lens solution had gone missing, but it turned out to have fallen into the pocket of the coat on which it was placed.

Unlike at Eddie Harris, they don’t cut the locks of those who fail to return by half an hour after curfew. I was not provided with a locker: the locker associated with my bed was occupied, so I was told to just put my belongings under the bed for now. The lockers here are taller and narrower with only one shelf, but much larger than the tall, narrow lockers that Eddie Harris got rid of a couple of months ago from those rooms that still had them. I didn’t feel safe with my Ikea bag of comics under the bed, so I made an unscheduled trip and placed all my printed matter that wasn’t borrowed from the library there. The library books remain under the bed, since I don’t want them racking up fines being in a storage unit across the Hudson River. I didn’t get there until around 10:45, and that’s when I finally could go to the bathroom since I had no toilet paper (you cannot leave the shelter between the hours of 10 PM and 5 AM, and cannot be at the shelter, other than in the common room, between 8 AM and 2 PM).

I skipped showering, although we still have private stalls here (they give you a Bill of Rights that mentions privacy for personal care, so I doubt there are prison-like communal showers in the system), and was very tempted to skip breakfast just to get my books into storage. Breakfast today consisted of Hospitality Brand Toasted Oats, a bagel (much better than the bagels from Eddie Harris, and with more pats of butter), milk, and an opaque pink-range beverage with a citrus flavor served from a large camping dispenser. I also saw dregs of what looked like yogurt, but didn’t take it, and didn’t see any tableware that wasn’t used, so I spread the butter pats with the cardboard and ate the cereal with my hands, since I prefer the milk on the side, anyway.

Then I went up to get my stuff. I never intended to carry an IKEA blue bag full of books as far as I had to carry it, but I did–the only other option was keeping it in the office. I guess I won’t be participating in the Black Friday sales at the comic shops, unless I get a pleasant surprise when I’m finally allowed to load my locker and see for real how much space is available. My hands are still in pain, but they’ll recover. At the storage office, I was informed that they have not yet received the December payment I requested at the HRA office, but since they’ve decided to shut off my services pending fair hearing, I’ll have to use my own money that the shelter system wants me to save for a down payment on my own place. In addition, I can’t do anything about the emergency room bills from Shands and Englewood that they are supposed to take care of until after the fair hearing, which I should win because I no longer have a job. When I was at the mandatory dispute resolution (MDR) prior to the fair hearing, I was told that I actually didn’t work enough hours at my previous job and should have been assigned to slave labor (also known as WEP). I just want to get a job and get out of there.

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One Comment
  1. Keep Speaking Truth to Power Scott….Good Luck!

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