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What Is My Next Step?

July 10, 2013

On Monday, I had to attend a mandatory Next Step Conference. If I failed to attend, the document said that it could result in an automatic transfer to a Next Step Shelter, where I am told that the curfew is at 8 PM, at least at the most infamous, Willow, on East 135th Street in the Bronx. The concern was that they had no record of me having saved any money since February, the time my moronic former caseworker, Ms. Smith (her real name), parted ways with Project Renewal. Now they’re on me for my savings having gone down, when I showed that it was because HRA refused to pay for my storage on account of my $112 a week unemployment insurance pittance, and that HRA cut my snap benefits from $200 per month to $78 when the food at the shelter has made me sick on ten occasions. The last time I ate brunch at the shelter was the same day as the Wikipedia Picnic, and on the way back, I nearly soiled my friend’s car, but I figured the sooner I got back, the better.

Once I presented my case, they said that they would have the entitlements specialist advocate for me before HRA to get me the services that they were previously providing–$200 in SNAP benefits monthly and my storage paid for. where have I heard that one before? They said, barring that, my caseworker and I would work out a rebudgeted savings plan.

After the conference, my relieved friend, whose car was cleared to make room for helping me get the contents of my locker out in one trip without having to ride the subway, took my to the Hibachi Grill Buffet on Staten Island, where we had oysters, sushi, and other Asian food (plus macaroni and cheese and shrimp fettucini alfredo) for $10.99 per person. They had eight flavors of hand-dipped ice cream, included the great Japanese restaurant favorites of red bean and green tea. Some children asked me for help because the containers were getting low, so I helped them, hoping my dish wouldn’t melt first, since there wasn’t really a good place within the freezer to set it down. Dad told me there wasn’t a good reason, in spite of medical reports advising to restrict standing and bending on the job, why I couldn’t get a job at Carvel. Even the amount of bending for these few people was creating a definite strain that I didn’t think I could sustain for an hour, let alone a full shift. And this was the family member to whom I was closest and could talk most easily, straining relationships even further now that he’s no longer here in physical form.

Today I met with the entitlements specialist. She put in for a fair hearing for me, explaining that I need the full $200 because I’m away on job search and not at the shelter the bulk of the day. Aside from that, she was trying to persuade me to find a smaller storage unit so that I could reduce the cost, particularly for when they move me into an SRO. She kept rolling her eyes when I said that I’d rather be put out on the street than lose all my worldly possessions as long as I have money in savings. As at the conference, I explained Rome Birkett’s failure to do anything to help me find a job beyond Google searches for administrative assistant jobs and my case worker trying to get me to interview for the laborer job in spite of my medical paperwork. Maybe if the SRO isn’t as small as they clam, I could get the stuff into a smaller space at a lower cost, but it might be a significant toll on my back, especially if my friend isn’t available to help me.

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