Letter to the DHS commissioner
I sent this letter to the Department of Homeless Services commisisoner’s office on December 10, 2010. As I post this, I have yet to receive a response.
Dear Ms. ——-:
I am writing to request a transfer from Third Street Shelter, and not to anything funny, such as to Bedford-Atlantic, which I understand to be the Auschwitz of New York City homeless shelters. I want back in a shelter that actually has rooms and isn’t so much of a flophouse. This is a substance abuse shelter, where my caseworker (—– —–) tried to put me into the recovery program in spite of a lack of criteria. There has been no hot water for the past two mornings–the shelter apparently desires to make bums out of every homeless person by keeping the shower water ice cold. The laundry service is a joke. We are not allowed to do our own laundry here. I’ve been told that you have to bribe the guy if you want your clothes to come out wearable. I’m forced to draw out of my savings because I change my underwear daily, so a week’s worth of that counts as 21 garments (since they count socks as pairs), and we are limited to ten garments per week, so I go around the corner and do it myself. This is totally unacceptable, when the shelter receives $3,500 per month to allow us to do such things. The laundry service is one example of the staff paying only lip service to the regulations.
They keep serving food that gives everyone diarrhea, including bread that tastes of mothballs. This is the third time I have had diarrhea since coming to this shelter the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Thursday before last, the Jamaican beef patty they served led to mass incidents of diarrhea and clients throwing up all over the restroom.
There seems to be no justification for putting me in a shelter so completely inconducive to job search, such that they don’t even provide a bag lunch–the only way to get food from the shelter is to eat food at the shelter during serving times. This seems rational enough for a recovery program, but all the more reason for me not to be at this shelter.
In addition, I requested that HRA pay for my storage on November 12, presenting them a residency letter for Eddie Harris Shelter, where I lived at the time. They did not pay my bill, and so I was forced to draw this out of savings when the bill came due on December 1.
I intend to leave the shelter system as soon as possible. My last job left me with over $2,000 in the bank, although that has fallen to over $1,800 because of expenses such as my storage. At this point, pretty much all I need is a steady income to move into my own place. The shelter system clearly has no mechanism in place to help an educated man with a physical challenge that prevents him from taking just any job, in particular, the most readily available ones.
I honestly don’t see why the city can’t simply pay for me to have my own 1-bedroom apartment, which would absorb the storage expense, as well once I could afford to get it moved out. If the city can pay $3,500 per month for me to live in a flop house where I am treated like garbage, the city can pay $1,000 or thereabouts per month for me to live in a large one bedroom in one of the outer boroughs, where I can at least do some freelance work from my own computer–it’s next to impossible using library resources.
Scott Andrew Hutchins