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Project Renewal’s Latest Tax Theft

September 11, 2013

I am sitting here unshowered because when I went to shower before breakfast, since we are required to be in street clothes before we come to breakfast, the only available showers were in the 6th floor west shower room, which has no hot water, even after the supposed repairs for when the water was scalding hot a few weeks ago, in which both 6th floor shower rooms were shut down on grounds of excessively hot water, even though the west one is ice cold, and was at the time either ice cold or would madly switch between hot and cold every ten seconds.  This is, of course, against the law, although it is a violation and not a criminal offense, so there is little I can do about it other than take them to civil court, where I will be expected to name a monetary value on this loss, and any figure I gave could be considered ridiculous.

When I got back upstairs to go to the bathroom, shave, brush my teeth, and comb my hair, I saw flyers posted with Project Renewal’s latest draconian rule.  Starting tomorrow, once breakfast ends at 7:30, clients are not allowed back upstairs until 4 PM.  We must have everything we need from our lockers at breakfast and be prepared to leave the building.  This is the shelter administration’s enormous gift to itself at the expense of clients and taxpayers.

As mentioned, we are not allowed to plug anything in upstairs.  Using the alarm clock in my phone does not work for a multitude of reasons:  leaving it on overnight without charging it drains the battery, and keeping the phone in my locker (phone thefts at the shelter are common) makes the phone too quiet to be heard while sleeping.  I would have gone on another trip to Albany the week before the one I documented on this blog had I been able to hear this attempt.

This is nothing more than a ploy by the director, Shannon Potts, to line her wallet with money not spent on food.  The Department of Homeless Services request that I not mention staff in my blog can be damned (after all, Ms. Potts did send me on a wild goose chase that resulted in my arrest).  The worst thing they can do to me for exerting my first amendment rights is transfer me to a next step shelter where the curfew is at 8 PM instead of 10 PM, which seems destined to happen as a result of the rule anyway.  Missing breakfast means more money spent on outside food, and spending money on outside food leads to disobeying the savings plan, which will result in my transfer to a Next Step shelter.  They are giving me a taste of it today:  my caseworker has scheduled my Independent Living Plan review for 8 PM, so I have to miss David Friedman’s class tonight.  My unemployment benefits have not yet posted to my checking account, so I will be considered non-compliant with the savings plan, even though I have received no money between last week’s meeting with my caseworker and today’s.   At Eddie Harris, where we were allowed in the cafeteria in our pajamas, they would typically run out of food twenty minutes into the scheduled breakfast hour, 7 AM to 8 PM, and we had to be out of the building or in the rec room by 9.  At Renewal on the Bowery, breakfast is from 6:30-7:30 AM, and they used to serve all the way until the end of the hour, but lately, they have been cutting it off between five and ten minutes early, running out of food, so it is clear that they are spending less of their budget on food.  Because we have to be ready to leave before 7:30 now, this will mean fewer people eating breakfast and a justification to order less food.  The security staff gets only $10 an hour, so where is all that money going?  I don’t think it’s wrong to insinuate that it goes to the director, which meets with Occam’s razor.  As has been well reported, shelters make more than $3,500 per client per month at the expense of the taxpayer, which is about $117 a day, which could get you a night at a luxury hotel.  Instead, we get a big dorm room with a cot (terrible for my back problems) and a locker, public toilets that plug so easily that sometimes just what you use to paper the seat is enough to plug it and get you threatened by other clients if you don’t unplug it by hand, since only the maintenance staff has access to plungers, and the food situation detailed above, and you can be in the area only from 4 PM to 8 AM on weekdays.

So, from now on it seems, I will no longer be eating breakfast at the shelter.  I already wasn’t eating lunch or dinner after all the food poisonings I got during the first month of my stay (8–10 in total).  I will wake up, shave, number 2, shower, dress, brush my teeth, comb my hair, and leave at 8 AM with no breakfast and have to buy food while I’m away or just wait until 4:30 when MASBIA kosher-meat soup kitchen becomes available (although it’s closed for the rest of the week for the high holy days).  I hope they keep serving chicken, since I doubt they will serve anything vegetarian (I want to avoid beef and don’t want to try any other red meats they might serve) , which would have to be vegan under the circumstances, although I am not sure their policy on eggs, which varies among Orthodox sects, according to Wikipedia’s kosher foods article.  They are normally available for dinner Sunday through Thursday.  Yesterday, there was a guy in there with a Wikipedia T-shirt, so I wonder if he knows Richard, who lives in Flatbush.  This is the only soup kitchen I have found near Brooklyn College, and I first tried it only this Monday.

The shelter’s library, which has several computers with Internet access, reopened a few weeks ago, as my caseworker likes to keep reminding me, although the hours are relatively short, and I suspect that they would be watching me like a hawk and preventing me from doing things like working on my blog, in addition to the probable demand keeping me off them, since there are so few–three I believe.  In order to use them, you have to be program compliant, and the fact that I didn’t save any money this week may keep me off them. As of right now, I have $15 in my checking account–the majority of last week’s money ($141.75) went for a monthly Metrocard ($112), and until my recent unemployment got canceled and I was given extended benefits off my 2008-9 unemployment, it took the entirety of the first week’s release, $112.  Perhaps if my ILP review meeting were tomorrow instead of today, I could up my savings by $100, since my last two payouts of the month go for my storage, while the second is from where any spending money comes.  I hope my caseworker is insightful enough to allow me to do that instead of being draconian.  He usually is, but given the environment, I don’t have high hopes for him to do the right thing.

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