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Project Renewal=Project Irrational

August 5, 2013

Someone from HRA, probably at the behest of Lynn Lewis of Picture the Homeless, faxed a denial letter over to Third Street Shelter, so now my storage bill is an expense incorporated into my savings plan.  That’s only one hurdle, however.  On June 28, Safeguard Self Storage sent me an e-mail that I had previously not noticed, raising my rent from $202.67 to $226.  I had to draw off my savings, which need to go up by $40 by August 7, and I have no idea how to do that.  I have $2.26 in my checking account, and 100% of my next installment of unemployment insurance goes straight to paying for a monthly Metrocard, for which I am also required to provide a receipt for my caseworker.  I do not know how to come up with this additional money.  the entitlements specialist sent me to a fair hearing to have my food stamps increased, but I was told that the only way I could do this is if I provide medical evidence that the shelter food makes me sick, which would require me to intentionally give myself food poisoning, which is insane.  Her intent was simply that I am away at job search.  HRA says that I should return to the shelter for toxic meals.

I have learned that among the things they do at Willow Next Step aside from the 8 PM curfew is confiscate your phone charger so that it cannot even be used outside the building.  The fact that we were not allowed to charge cell phones in the building is what first brought me to Picture the Homeless, but confiscation simply for possession is legalized theft.  It is also highly irrational on their part and is strong evidence that the system does not, in fact, want people to get jobs, but wants to continue using them as $117 per day cash cows like the private prison system, and these people also get away with being non-profits.

On July 25 and 26, the shelter again had no hot water, and breakfast was, accordingly, bagels and yogurt.  I was unable to shower either of those days.  The east shower is now scalding hot while the west shower room is still ice cold.  I went to the west shower on the fifth floor, the only one where the temperature is adjustable.  This is the only such shower on either the fifth or sixth floors where the shower is not simply on-off.  This morning, they were full, anyway.

It was 6:38 (breakfast is from 6:30-7:30, and I have been sent back upstairs for coming down in my pajamas), and I went to the fifth floor west shower.  A staff member I didn’t recognize–a big fat bald dark skinned black, followed me in and told me that full shower rooms upstairs (there are a total of five shower stalls each on the fifth and sixth floors) is not a good reason for me to go to the fifth floor, because I am a sixth floor resident, and he demanded that I leave, and miss breakfast if necessary.   I told him that he was an irrational moron and pushed the door shut.  I realize between here and YouTube that I have been using the “no true Scotsman” fallacy a lot, but I honestly feel like these are exceptions.   There is no way for an institution like Project Renewal to justify preventing one of their clients from showering and eating when the government pays them $117 per day per person for them to do this.  If one bathroom has no soap or toilet paper, and that is all locked away in a storage room, the normal, rational person would go to one of the other available bathrooms and not be intimidated to use them.  I have done this repeatedly as well, and no staff member has ever complained.  If no showers are available or if there are temperature problems, the intelligent person goes to where others are available.  The shelter has no right to punish me for taking matters into my own hands when services are withheld.  I wasn’t harming anyone.  When I went to the shower room, there was one stall being used, and the other two were empty.   This is an “inmates running the asylum” issue.  I have never been so tempted to punch someone in the face, but I knew he was only doing his job.  He may have seen the intensity of my anger and could not pursue it, but by limbs were incredible taut as I showered, and my muscles are already incredibly tight.

These are the subtle ways in which so-called “not for profits” steal taxpayer dollars (and I pay $16 in income tax on my unemployment insurance each week) via arbitrary rules that shouldn’t be more than rules of thumb.  I don’t see how a rational person could even make the case that I did something wrong here–not if the  right thing is to go without eating or showering, two of the key reasons people go to homeless shelters to begin with.  the problem is that the shelter system is a business, and when public services are run as a business, money gets in the way of common sense, and the common sense in play here is that if a shower stall is vacant, I should be allowed to use it, regardless of whether it is on the floor while I sleep, especially since the shelter refuses to make the necessary repairs and has used a temporary truck boiler the entire eight months that I have been there.

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