Abolish the Shelter System!
This was stated as a long term goal at a meeting of Picture the Homeless a couple of weeks ago. The current system is completely unnecessary. The organization has proven that there is space available to house all of us, and those of us who are general population are simply being punished for being poor with unhealthy living conditions, lack of privacy, and curfews. I am told that as general population, my best bet to get out is to find a job on my own and have the pay stubs necessary for a landlord to rent to me.
Then there is the further punishment of sending to me a place where I spend most of my time in a holding room waiting for an extremely slow computer where many websites, including some for staffing agencies, are blocked. (WordPress is only semi-blocked. I can use quota time to edit my blog, but I wouldn’t use it for a lengthy entry because of time constraints.) Sometimes there is a lesson in the holding room, about how much we know about something related to job search topics.
At my WEP, there is a young woman from the class who does janitorial work. She is allowed to use the computer room when she finishes. I feel bad for her since I get to spend all day doing my own thing on the computer because I was sent here to do clerical work. The post recent class activity was a quiz on sexual harassment in the workplace. The team I was on won pencils for missing only five of the 30 questions, usually assuming that the law is more stringent than it is. Another guy smacked the aforementioned young lady on the arm, and the instructor told him not to hit her. I said “sexual harassment,” and a scowl appeared on the instructor’s face. She took me out in the hall and said how inapproriate my remark was and that I have no right to “make light of” the lessons in her classroom. As far as I’m concerned, the government has no right to conciliate my case for not showing up, since I’ve informed them three times (most recently on February 8) that I receive unemployment insurance, but they insist on giving me the biweekly $22.50 in public assistance. I’ve already been scammed out of my February food stamps, but I’ll make things harder on myself if I don’t show. To date, they still haven’t supplied me with the additional funds for Metrocard purchases. I have one more sealed weekly Metrocard from the last back to work program that I was in, which gave out free Metrocards for retaining one’s job, so I kept showing up to get the free Metrocards up until I got laid off. The monthly rate has been jacked up from $103 to $112 (which, by the way, is entirely to pay the interest on MTA’s capital projects because they refused to use a public fund that is sitting in an account for them) starting on March 1.
I’ve been doing a lot more at the Unity church, in spite of my non-participation in the choir. At Paul’s midweek service, he talked about doing random kindnesses to be an expression of God’s love, such as putting change in an expired parking meter for a stranger. I and the guy who smacked that girl both covered for her and got the instructor to sign it in. She is uncomfortable in crowded elevators and only one was working, so she was waiting in the lobby for the crowd to disspiate. Therefore, she was not marked late and risking her benefits.
A job developer at FEGS sent me to interview for a temp job as an administrative assistant. He told me that I did really well, but I heard nothing. One thing that they stressed at FEGS was the importance of getting a thank you letter sent, but I kept getting shunted off the computers by instructors saying that other people had priority, such that I was not able to complete one on Friday (the day of the interview), and my Saturday and Sunday were both quite busy, even though I missed the Academy Awards for the first time since 1994, when I began studying film seriously.
I discussed my situation with some of my friends from the New York Wikimedia chapter. Saturday was the Wikipedia’s 12th birthday celebration at NYU. One of them told me that as a publicly funded private charity, the Bowery Mission is breaking the law by requiring guests to attend religious service in order to eat at their soup kitchen. He also said that he would research Muzzy Rosenblatt since so much of my time is taken up at places where instructors are watching what you do on the computer and waiting for you to do something that will let them send you home. They don’t exactly do a good job, as I see many people looking at Facebook and so forth, but I don’t like to do more than switch over to my Twitter or WordPress account for brief periods. The computers are so slow, that I often struggle to complete the job search forms that the shelter requires me to fill out. Indeed, one of my job confirmations came from a site called Windsor Resources. Although I eventually managed to do it, it was difficult to get their address and contact number without using their website, which is blocked. Perhaps it’s a scam. I have applied for enough admin jobs through them without a response to make me wonder.
There is a guy at the shelter with a bed near mine who is an ex-con and a total stereotype of a Brooklyn Italian. He often comes back at night proudly discussing how he shoplifted something from Jack’s 99¢ Store. He is the one who initially thought that Renewal on the Bowery was so much better than prison, and then realized that the facility itself is worse. Because the system is so screwed up that general population people like me have no inroads to quality housing, he is trying for the mentally disabled route, claiming post-traumatic stress disorder and other things about which I do not want to get to specific about lest I harm his case. He found it very hard to believe that the shelter takes in $3,500 per person per month and that he would love to see that in print to use against the shelter, which is trying to claim that he does not meet the criteria for mental health housing. Yesterday at FEGS, I printed off Picture the Homeless’s Banking on Vacancy pamphlet, which states this clearly on paragraph 2 of page 10. I was lucky I didn’t get in trouble, since it’s 35 pages with a lot of pictures to use up ink. Personally, I would love to see everyone in the shelter receive a copy of this pamphlet because of the strength in numbers of everyone knowing just how badly the money is squandered for the gain of a few wealthy elites while we are treated like animals. Someone expressed the proper sentiment, “Fuck FEGS” on all three walls of one of the two stalls in the men’s room. The elitisim at FEGS is extraordinary. The janitor wanted to take the partitions out rather than repaint them, saying that the “animals” in the program don’t deserve them and should have a military head, while he gets to use the staff bathroom. They even have staff elevators at this place, which is one of the reasons people have to wait so long to get upstairs and sign in. The message is a constant, “we’re better than you.”
I got my comuppance for printing off those sheets. In order to save for my records that I had indeed gone to the interview, since they love to claim that they never got the necessary paperwork, I went to the copy machine, whcih was jammed and needing a refill of paper. When the jam was cleared, far less than a ream was added to the paper tray. It looked like it could not have been more than 50 pages, possibly even less. These idiots in the program who got there before me kept pressing the buttons for the quantity and hitting start without paying the slightest amount of attention to what they were doing, hitting the start button without noticing what the quantity box clearly stated. When I finally was able to get close enough to the machine, the guy ahead of me carelessly tried to print 111 copies of his document. I blocked his hand from hitting the start button and raised my voice telling him to pay attention to what he was doing, saying it was no wonder that he was in the program, whereas I’m on unemployment and am in the program because of a mistake. That got the attention of the security guard, who claimed that I slapped the guy’s hand, which is not an accurate representation of what I did. Fortunately, I just got a good talking to, but I was eventually able to get my proof copies. Although I fell into the trap of acting like an elitist myself, surely the contemptuous zeitgeist of FEGS was a major influence on my behavior.
If I am allowed to get any of my $1,018 tax refund, it will make it easier to move into my new place, but no one is going to let me move into a new place on a few remaining weeks of unemployment insurance. It is a complete mystery when I will next be allowed to interview for a job. A recruiter contacted me about a position for which he thought I was a match based on my resume, but I probably was automatically taken out of the running because I have never used InDesign, which was on the preliminary questionnaire. As discussed at Socrates Café on Sunday, in all probability, the majority of the approximately 1,589 resumes I have sent out in the past ten months have never been seen by a human, but deleted by a computer’s filtration software. At church this morning, I heard some older people saying they thought the reason people were out of work is because they’re sitting too much time in front of a computer instead of going out and working, but they are obviously out of touch with how the vast majority of jobs are obtained these days. My best bet, according to my caseworkers appears to be a longshot, even though there are thousands of empty buildings in New York City. As long as property rights are allowed to trump human rights, this is how it will remain.