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Project Renewal=Project Punishment

January 28, 2013

Last night I had to wait to go up to my bed, even though I arrived three minutes before curfew. One particularly obnoxious staff member decided to take the bed roster sheet up early. This is the text of a grievance form I have filled out that I intend to turn in today.  I brought it to the library to make several photocopies before turning it in, since fellow residents of the shelter tell me it will most likely be discarded unread.  Thus, if my caseworker tells me that I have been written up (I am scheduled to see her February 6) and that she has not seen the grievance form, I can present her with a copy, and I made a couple of extras, just in case.  All one write-up does is take away my one per month free pre-scheduled overnight.  I can’t think of a situation in which I would use that, anyway, since if I had another place to sleep, I would be there.  The main purpose seems to be visiting family or conjugal visits, but the former is unfeasible, and the latter is not going to happen.

Description of concern:

I arrived this evening at 9:57 PM, but the bed sheet had already been taken up.  I said that the person who did it was a jackass.  the woman at the desk told me that she was going to write me up for yelling at her, although I was not yelling.  She then referred to me as “that tall nigger” to another staff member, pointing at me when he did not know who that was.  When the staff member came back down, I complained to him for going up early.  He threatened to write me up if I didn’t stop complaining.  He said that I was too stupid to fill out one of these forms and gave me 9 copies, writing his name, “Mr. Benjamin,” in enormous letters to signify his contempt for my intelligence.

Please describe any suggestions you may have to resolve this situation:

Neither employee behaved in an appropriate or respectful manner.  They need to be disciplined for their behavior, and any write-up they have done on me be stricken from the record.  In the future, the bed sheet needs to be kept downstairs until after the 10 PM curfew has passed.

This is not the first time Mr. Benjamin has treated me with disrespect. One time I had to tell him by bed number ten times because he was too busy chatting with his co-workers to listen.

The brevity is a result of the sheet size, so there may not be enough clarifying information for readers of this blog.  It also avoids detail to save space, such as how Mr. Benjamin specifically said that he was going to give me a bunch of grievance forms specifically because he thinks I am too stupid to fill one out right the first time.  Before Mr. Benjamin got back in the elevator with us, another resident was commenting on how disrespectful he thought that his behavior toward me had been.  Mr. Benjamin had kept insisting that I had had nothing to complain about since I hadn’t lost my bed.  The woman who used the word “nigger” to describe me, a short, middle aged black woman, once sympathized with me–when I mentioned my education, she told me that she was educated as well, having been laid off after ten years from a job where she made $23 an hour, and was now making only $10 an hour, but last night, she was angry because I vented against her co-worker’s misbehavior, apparently offended that I was using the word “jackass” (which I never used to describe her–nor did I say any insult that was directed at her), which is complete hypocrisy when she is calling people “niggers” in a situation where it was clearly not a buddy-up term.

Considering that Project Renewal receives a minimum of $20,000 a day from the local government, she had every right to be angry, or to fear that if she didn’t defend her co-worker that something might happen to her.

To emphasize how poorly Project Renewal uses the money that New York City city collects from taxpayers, today’s breakfast lacked milk entirely.  I have never actually partaken of the coffee here.  I am told that it’s terrible, and I have never habitually drunk coffee to wake up in the morning, only heavily milked dessert drinks later on in the day, but it apparently ran out well before the breakfast period was over.  Even before I went down, I was warned by people who had gone down already.  The breakfast period at Project Renewal is from 6:30 to 7:30.  Because of the late breakfast on weekends, Mondays are a little more difficult than other days of the week to get up on time, even though I could simply stay up at 5 when I wake up needing to use the bathroom (the night before I even suffered slight incontinence, since I still have not received my new insurance card (Oxybutynin ER 10 mg quantity 60 is over $200 out of pocket) , and that has just never happened. Fortunately, there was no repeat today), so I didn’t wake up until 6:19, by which time I am usually already showering, but I had hear multiple alerts as to how bad the breakfast was, but at least everything was sealed except the juice.  Corn muffins, yogurt, Hospitality 40% Bran Flakes, Cream-o-Land orange juice, and a pear, which is far smaller than the usual breakfast that they serve, even taking into account that I don’t eat the disgusting sausage–I tried one when I found out it was turkey and still hated it, so I always give it away, especially when it has green spots, which is often, especially when it’s patties rather than links).  With my luck, when I went down, they were serving strawberry yogurt.  Fortunately, Upstate Farms, the brand that they usually serve us (which I have never seen in the store), is usually pretty weak on the flavoring, but I was able to get two raspberry yogurts just before the breakfast period ended.  It’s 10:12 AM as I type this, and I’m feeling hunger pangs I don’t normally feel after breakfast unless I walk from the Third Street Shelter to Union Square (then it hits in around 12th street).  A typical breakfast at Project Renewal has all of the above, aside from different fruits and cereals, except not always the yogurt, plus sausage and either oatmeal, grits (what I misindentified as soup when I first got here because they normally, but not always, make it extremely thin–last week they made some so thick that one of the servers was scooping hot water from the steam table up with one of the Styrofoam bowls and dumping it on the grits), a bagel, a one-egg omelet (sometimes with green pepper or asparagus in addition to the cheese), French toast, pancakes, or waffles.  The absence of that after its usual presence, as with the bed roster sheet until 10 PM, is not something anyone who has been there could fail to notice.

Games with the bed roster sheet were a particularly unpleasant feature of the intake shelter at Bellevue, where I stayed from May 25 until June 5, when I was forced out of my bed at 2 AM for transfer to Eddie Harris.  At Eddie Harris, once you signed for the night, they didn’t mess with you.  You just couldn’t leave the building, other than to go to the hospital, once you signed (and you had to by 10), until 5 AM.  The night of June 3, I had signed for my bed, but they and Project Renewal go through this asinine procedure to make sure that everyone is at their bed at 10 PM, and I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth when they entered my room.  Project Renewal at least has the decency to check the bathrooms, but they did not check, even though my roommate said that he let them know I was in the bathroom.  June 4, my bed was listed as open on the roster, and I was not allowed to sign for it.  I was told by a staff member with a cubicle to be at my bed at 10 PM, and they would have me sign.  I was at my bed, but they did not have me sign it then, and I made the mistake of not speaking up, so at 2 AM, they gave my bed to someone else and forced me to vacate it.  I initially refused, I quickly realized that I had no choice.  They made sure that I emptied out my locker, and did not even give me a chance to change out of my pajamas.  In the shelter system, they find any excuse to treat residents like garbage, as if being in a shelter that gets $117 a day from your very presence is not bad enough.

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