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Project Renewal=Project Intimidation

March 5, 2013

Since HRA gave me about $40 in food stamps for January, then gave me $200 partway through January that they said was supposed to be for February, even though I’ve been visiting more soup kitchens (at least when I was at FEGS–there are none near Brooklyn college), I’ve been having to spend my unemployment money on food when I’m supposed to be saving 60% in a savings account and proving it.  This is not easy when your food isn’t covered by other means.  I last ate dinner at the shelter on January 27, and I had loose stool, not quite diarrhea, the next day.  That coupled with the proof of serving expired food that I witness has caused me to decide never to eat lunch or dinner there again.  Of course, the concern is that when I see my caseworker, I will be sanctioned for not adhering to the savings plan.  Other residents of the shelter have reassured me that they can’t do that.  They could only get rid of me (other than through administrative transfer to another shelter) if I were caught using illegal drugs or arriving significantly after curfew.  I’ve never even tried  marijuana and I’m too concerned about the comic books in my locker to allow them to cut my lock.  I’m trying to be more careful with my money, but I thought I had twice as much in my checking account as I did when I spent $39 at Joe Koch’s warehouse on Saturday.  I then found a store that had two out of print trades on my wishlist selling for 20% off.  Both of them normally have a high markup online; nevertheless, I am still waiting for my next UIB payment to come through before I buy them (I’m not saying which they are or where for obvious reasons, lest someone buy them), rather than transfer out of savings, which I am doing strictly for food.

This is hardly paranoia on my part.  Sunday morning, I was up early to go to Unity, and a guy in the next stall was talking about how all the air freshener he was spraying wasn’t helping the smell.  He had gotten food poisoning from (surprise, surprise) a beef patty that they had served on Saturday.  He told me that he had gone to Beth Israel and had gotten confirmation that it was the beef patty that did it.  That night, he was sent downstairs for not being at his bed at head count time because he was in the bathroom still dealing with his food poisoning.  I don’t know if there were any serious consequences such as losing his bed, but he was sure threatened.

The head count is a ridiculous practice that the shelter staff perform throughout the night.  At Eddie Harris, once you signed in, you were signed in, and they didn’t bother you.  Maybe that was another way in which they violated DHS policy, but it was certainly better for the residents.  Last night I fell asleep while reading yet again, and woke up to go to the bathroom around midnight.  The staff was doing another head count at the time, but since they could confirm that I was the one with the empty bed, it was not an issue.  The signature is the way that the shelter gets their government funding ($117 a day per signature).  I guess since they spend the money on Muzzy Rosenblatt’s salary instead of fresh food, they have to find a way to make use of their $10 an hour employees.

When I was out in Sunset Park, there was a BRC van near the Costco (Joe Koch says the warehouse is next to Costco, but it’s actually about 2 blocks away).  I found some paper on the ground and scrawled on it “Muzzy owes me _______!”  I apparently did some incorrect inputs in the calculator, because the exact figure that I came up with was over $11,000.  If he makes $71 a day off my misery, and has no connection to Bushwick Economic Development Corporation, the exact amount of money he received (not earned) from treating me like garbage is $7,313 for the eleven days in November, 31 in December, 31 in January, 28 in February, and, at the time, two days in March.  Anyway, the hyperbolic figure went under the windshield of the BRC van.  Hopefully, they reported it and Muzzy got scared.  (I’ve never met the guy, but a name like Muzzy is to easy to lampoon.  The only other time I’ve heard the name Muzzy was Nell Harper’s name for her Raggedy Ann doll on Gimme a Break).

On February 28, the waffle breakfast they had prepared for us was mostly left in the basement.  The staff didn’t want to bring more up, so everyone who arrived halfway through the breakfast hour got their bread on their plate instead of waffles.  I tweeted out that Muzzy Rosenblatt had gotten greedier still, and Picture the Homeless retweeted me.  Running out halfway through breakfast was the norm at Eddie Harris, but breakfast is later, and it’s worse for it to be the norm than the exception, because it is harder to prepare for an exception.

People like “Employed” “grickster,” and “Your’e an Ingrate” like to say that I’m not paying for this, so I don’t have a right to criticize.  This notion is thoroughly imbecilic.  I may not be paying in money, but I am paying in mental and physical health.  If one billionaire is getting 61% of the money that the government is spending to help me, I have an ethical obligation to criticize, publicize, and demand attention be given to this injustice.  On the other hand, my caseworker has no right to intimidate me and tell me that I have no right to spend my unemployment money on food when the food that the shelter provides is toxic and affects multiple people in a negative manner.

One person I met at Picture the Homeless used to live in a shelter, but now sleeps on the train and showers at Picture the Homeless because she was intimidated out of the shelter system.  She saved over $3,000 and was told that she had too much money to stay in the shelter, even though her income made moving into her own place unfeasible.  I am concerned that they will try to do that to me, as Eddie Harris attempted to railroad me into buying a room that I could not afford.  I can’t think of anything non-physical that one can do to a person worse than forcing them to spend all their savings when they are homeless to put them into a home, only to set them back to square one within a few months’ time.

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