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New Ways to Cheat Homeless People Out of Food

September 13, 2013

Last night, I wasn’t able to get a fresh towel without raising my voice and getting the shelter staff mad at me, but at least it succeeded. It was a good thing I had it, too, because the staff didn’t turn the lights on until 6:45. I was lying in bed, thinking I was just awake because of the heat, since the lights were out. I should have known better and checked the time. Had I gone down stairs when I finished dressing, I would have been trapped, forced to leave the building without my gear and with my hair uncombed, teeth unbrushed, and needing to go to the bathroom. I opted for not going downstairs and doing these things, instead, requiring me to buy my breakfast. I bought two Yoplait orange cream yogurts for .67 apiece (at this point, I must apologize to Yoplait for tweeting that their yogurt tastes like plastic. Having to keep doing this will eventually plow through my very limited food stamps.

I vandalized the hell out of two of the flyers with the new policy with things like “power trip” and “unethical.” The one in the elevator has gone missing and has probably been taken to compare with the handwriting on work search records. I added to the bottom of the one near the restroom on my side “New ways to cheat homeless people out of food” to further express my indignation, since that is clearly the purpose of the new rule. The more draconian the policies get, the easier it is for them to make money.

I hope I didn’t go overboard sharing that review with people at Project Renewal not affiliated with third Street Shelter. I sent it to most of the people who gave it good reviews on GreatNonprofits.org, as well as to someone on Twitter who is proud of the work she does at Project Renewal. She claimed that “We really do the best we can with what the govt gives us to use.” and “That site [Third Street] has a lot more expenses than the others. But I am willing to ask about changes to that.” I hope she doesn’t take it personally that I said in my review that all current employees should be fired. I don’t think Ellen Weiss or Bill Siegfried should be fired, for example, based on my contact with them, but I didn’t want to water down the hyperbole and make it look like I seriously mean more than just the people named in the review as having done a terrible job–heck, I didn’t even name my caseworker. Ellen Weiss conducted the intake workshop for Project Renewal’s jobs program, and I think she did a really good job. John Sheehan brought in Collin Reeve, who referred me to Bill Siegfried. I had a phone conversation with the latter. He said he had “no comment” about how Rome Birkett retains his position, but said that he had no pull outside of the veteran’s program, and would be unable to help me, since he has no permission to work with non-veterans. He said that if I wanted to work with the program, I would have to work with Rome Birkett, but he didn’t want to either encourage or dissuade me from doing so. Ellen Weiss said that she had heard that Project Renewal’s shelters are absolutely horrible, but that she had never been in one, and the program for which she works is funded by private donations rather than the government, and is completely separate aside from having the same parent organization.

This is what happens when you privatize a public service like a homeless shelter, it becomes more about making money than actually helping the homeless. It’s a business, and there is no reason that it should be one, because making money is distracting from the true goal of the nonprofit.

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