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Letter to the DHS commissioner

December 14, 2012

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.

Sincerely,

Scott Andrew Hutchins

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14 Comments
  1. speedygonzalez permalink

    Somehow I doubt phrases like “flophouse” and “Auschwitz of New York City homeless shelters” are going to do much to win over the commissioner to your point of view.

    It’s not even clear what your purpose is in writing. You begin by requesting a transfer, proceed through your litany of complaints, and conclude by stating that the city should get you an apartment. Along the way, you also make reference to money you believe you are owed. What’s poor Ms. ——- supposed to make of all this?

  2. Clearly, your reading comprehension skills are weak, which could potentially mean that you are functionally illiterate. I never made any statement that I was owed money. I simply said that the funds that the shelter receives from the city are being misused. DHS policy clearly states that shelter residents are entitled to do laundry without charge at the shelter. By making it full service and limiting the number of garments per week, the shelter is abusing funds that are meant to be spent on the residents’ behalf. There is little need to restate shelter system policies to the office of the commissioner of homeless services.

    • speedygonzalez permalink

      Perhaps it is your writing skills which are weak. Your letter is excessive in length, rambling, and lacking in cohesion. Furthermore, it’s needlessly snarky and antagonistic. That tone may be appropriate if your purpose is to blow off steam. If, however, your goal is to elicit a particular action from the recipient, then it tends to be counterproductive.

      • The letter is as long as it needs to be to make my point with examples. I don’t see how it’s rambling or lacking in cohesion. I can see that you misused the word “which” in your pst above, so I think I would notice if your comments had serious validity. Remember, I did better than you on the verbal portion of the SATs.

  3. Blackie permalink

    Amen Speedy!

  4. speedygonzalez permalink

    I am sure you have confused me with someone else. Nonetheless, you passed my “which vs. that” test. You have a good grasp of grammar, but you must learn to channel the words in constructive ways.

    Your letter lacks cohesion because it includes elements not supportive of your main point. Specifically, the last paragraph is rather irrelevant to the matter of a transfer. It’s a digression, and not likely one that will cause the recipient to be more sympathetic to your request. Other passages are questionable as well in that regard.

    • It is not in any way a digression. The letter is very carefully structured:

      a) requesting the shelter transfer
      b) stating why I was improperly placed in this particular shelter
      c) stating general problems with the shelter
      d) suggesting that my transfer be made to a private apartment rather than to another shelter and why.

  5. Commissioner D permalink

    Dear Mr. Hutchins:

    Thank you for your recent letter to the Department of Homeless Services. We are always eager to receive feedback about our programs and services from our clients. It’s impossible to convey how much value we place on receiving such feedback.

    We are deeply sorry to learn that you have not been satisfied with your stay at one of our properties. It is our goal to deliver an unparalleled homeless shelter experience to each and every client. We want to be your preferred respite from the rigors of daily life.

    We are particularly sad that you were disappointed with our Jamaican Beef Patty entrée. This dish is one of our most popular and frequently requested. Many clients are delighted to enjoy authentic Caribbean cuisine in a casual homeless shelter setting. We hear frequently of residents spontaneously erupting into their favorite reggae hits around the dinner table. It has also won several awards in publications such as Better Homes & Shelters, Good Shelterkeeping, and Food & Whine.

    Nonetheless, if this dish is not to your taste, one of our highly-trained culinary staff would be delighted to prepare an alternative selection for your enjoyment. I highly recommend the Jamaican Chicken Patty, the Jamaican Fish Patty, or our vegetarian option, the Jamaican Bean Patty. All are available for the same price.

    We deeply regret that we’ve not met your expectations with regard to our laundry service, wake-up service, Five-Star Jamaican Brown-Bag Lunch service, and our evening turn-down service. Rest assured we take client satisfaction very seriously. All of your feedback will be given the consideration it deserves.

    Thank you again for taking the time to write. It is only with your help that we can continue to achieve the level of excellence you’ve come to expect from a homeless shelter. As a token of our appreciation, you have been approved for a free upgrade to the Bedford-Atlantic facility for the duration of your stay. Enjoy!

    With warmest regards,
    Commissioner D.

    • The person who wrote this still fails to grasp the concept that the city is paying a private, for-profit shelter $3,500 per person per month. Any rational person would be outraged at the conditions that are being paid for with this amount of money. This is why social services, such a police, fire, prisons, shelters, and hospitals should not be privatized and for-profit with the city as a paying client. It’s been proven time and again that such systems are rife with abuse and wallet-lining.

    • grickster permalink

      yo, Commissioner D, wazzup, and why you put up with this fool? even if your pattys are made of kobe beef filet mignon – he’ll complain about something. keep doing the good work and don’t make it too comfy so they don’t stay too long!

  6. sohostyle permalink

    Scott, looks like you are the one who cannot spell…… ” pst”. Moron!

    • I didn’t hit the “o” key hard enough. I caught the error immediately, but unlike you, I don’t have the luxury of my own computer, and was not allowed to correct it because the room was closing when I submitted that post. A confusion between “you’re” and “your” is much more likely to be a cognitive problem than a typo, as opposed to one omitted letter.

      • big mo permalink

        it’s the keyboard’s fault… lol !!!

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