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Grievances about Bronx Park NAICA

December 30, 2013

Overall, post-intake, Bronx Park NAICA has given me less to complain about than Project Renewal.  Between that at the limited computer access I’ve had with Brooklyn College having been restricted to current students only, I haven’t blogged too much about problems with the shelter over the past two months.

This is a list of grievances I drew up to present to Brand Lander, a New York City Councilman vehemently opposed to shelters and for putting homeless people in their own apartments, which would save taxpayers more than $2,000 per homeless person per month.  Remember, the shelter receives $3,533 per month for every general population resident it houses, and $4,333 per month for every mentally ill chemical abuser it houses, primarily from federal tax money.  The city refused to pay the rent for me on my old apartment, a mere $1,018.75, unless I was working and agreed to pay it back, and I got laid off in October 2011.  The only reason to justify the greater expense is crooked backroom deals.  It has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the Rent Guidelines Board’s claim that New York City has a vacancy rate under 1% is an outright lie.

*Job developer and case workers have no qualifications. Details on blog.

*Security takes anything electric other than phones, including battery operated razors, and puts them in a drawer up front.  Although there are sockets everywhere, we are allowed to charge phones only from 5 PM to 9PM on weekdays.  I believe that on weekends it starts at 10 AM, but they take time off from it in mid-day.  Computer room is open from 5 PM to 9PM, is usually restricted to computer classes, and many job sites, such as Indeed, are blocked, but Twitter and Facebook are not.  You cannot charge your phone in the computer room or you will be banned (if caught). You must leave ID to charge your phone or get anything stored in the envelopes.  I used my driver’s license before I was provided with my shelter ID, so I suppose I could use this to keep form being locked out of my dorm room.  The confiscation policies are enforced so selectively that my roommate was allowed to sneak in a glass bottle of vodka, whereas a bag of individually wrapped Chinese wafers buried in my bag got confiscated.

*There is a laundry room, but we get only $10 a month on the card.  This is just barely enough for one load a week or two loads (white and colors) biweekly.  The laundry room is weekends only without special permission.  They don’t even open it at 5 PM.  The basement restroom (which is bigger than my old living room and mostly empty space) is closed except when the laundry room is open, even though the cafeteria and one of the rec rooms is on that floor.  Although we are provided with a towel on entry, we have to wash it with our laundry and not include it with linen exchange, as other shelters do.

*There are four restrooms on the top floor, but only those on the west side are ever opened.  There are six showers stall between the two that are opened, plus two that are equipped for wheelchair use but are not actually hooked up. (At present, all wheelchair bound residents live on the first floor.)  In the evening, only one restroom is ever opened, and in the morning, two.  Very often soap and toilet paper are nowhere to be had, because no one bothered to refill it.  They claim that the restrooms are washed every day, but someone vomited on the back part of a toilet last week, and it stayed for several days.  The restroom mirrors are metal like in a park restroom and practically useless.  All of my other shelters had regular mirrors, but this one, in spite of being a work readiness shelters, is concerned about people breaking them and having weapons.  They lock the restrooms at 10 PM, and reopen them after the count some time between 10:30 and 10:45.  On the evening of Christmas Day, I came home needing to use it, and I was forced to wait until after count because only one restroom was opened, and the only unoccupied stall was next to a crazy guy lying on the floor, probably receiving sexual favors.

*Similarly, they claim that they wash the dorm rooms daily, thus we are not allowed in them between 9 and 5, even on holidays and weekends (on non-holiday weekdays, we must leave the facility entirely).  Our key cards do not work at this time.  I first arrived November 9, and there was a Hallowe’en wound prosthesis on the floor near my bed for days.  Similarly, I took an adhesive bandage off on a Thursday morning and put it on the floor near my bed to see how long it would stay.  It was there until Monday evening.  The transfer procedure is done without any notices.  My transfer was issued at 2:57 PM on November 7 and effective immediately.  I was not informed of the decision until my arrival around 9:30 PM.  They demanded that in order to stay at the shelter I would have to sort through and consolidate all my belongings in the entry. That’s when I left and had a friend come get me and take me to Connecticut for a few days, where much of my personal property remains for the time being.  My transfer from Eddie Harris to Project Renewal Third Street was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving last year.  I was informed when I came in for dinner with intent to leave immediately for David Friedman’s class.  It was a nightmare to carry it all to Third Street, and since they didn’t cut the previous resident’s lock, I had no security, so I had to go to storage immediately in the morning.  At least Project Renewal was reasonable in letting me keep things under my bed until they provided me with a locker.  Bellevue transferred me to Eddie Harris in the middle of the night June 4, 2012, but at least they provided a bus.  They took my name off the bed roster when I was brushing my teeth at the head count, even though my roommate told them I was in the bathroom, then refused to allow me to sign for my bed the next night because they had removed it from the roster.  They then assigned someone to my bed and woke me up in the middle of the night demanding that I leave.

*The heat is frequently turned off at night, which is, of course, illegal.  Sometimes, such as the night of 12/17-12/28, it appears that the air conditioning is turned on in winter.

*The building has two elevators, one of which is always off limits to residents.  You have to sneak to use the other unless you can get an elevator pass.  I’m not considered disabled enough for them to issue one to me.  I’ve been harassed by security and maintenance for using it, but thus far, they’ve given me only warnings, not written me up.  Maintenance don’t have any authority to write us up, but they do warn us or tell us not to use it.

*Breakfast is supposed to be served from 6:30-8.  Once when I arrived at 7:54, the staffer had closed the window and refused to serve me.  I screamed at him how lazy he was, and he laughed that a homeless person was calling him lazy. It is inherently lazier to be paid to do something and not do it than to be actively searching for a job. You also get bag lunches at breakfast.  They often run out (often from taking them themselves or giving more than one to people) and tell you to come back at noon.  This especially doesn’t work for me on Sundays.

*The lights go off immediately at 10.  If you arrive even a few minutes after 10, priority bedding goes to new intakes, and you are supposed to sit in the lobby until 2 AM to see if you can bed, and you are not allowed additional sleep.  If they do not have a bed for you, they reserve the right to ship you to any shelter in the five boroughs that has an open bed.

*One of our residents is an Orthodox Jew.  They will not provide him with a late pass for Friday night religious service (his synagogue is in Riverdale, so it’s certainly not walkable, and the lack of a late pass keeps him from conferring with his rabbi, who is trying to help him find a job).  He needs to bring in food because he is diabetic, and they won’t allow him.  He also needed to cancel a colonoscopy because the shelter would not live him an overnight pass.

*Although I have yet to get sick from the food, I doubt that Regina Catering provides the waffles in a chewy, brown state.  The food service fools here also serve the juice cups straight from the freezer.  When I don’t have a beverage with food, it is inevitable that at least one bite is uncomfortable going down and I need to have something to drink to relieve the issue quickly and neatly.

*The beds are placed immediately next to the lockers so that they crowd between six an eight men into a room. My room has seven beds in it.  If the locker door is opened the slightest bit past straight out, it hits the bed frame.  My roommate in the bed to the left of me, Mark Cruz, has threatened to beat me up if I hit it again when I’m trying to get myself ready for bed.  I’m not doing this late at night.  Only around 10 PM, and it is not with my hand that this occurs.  It gets bumped with my back, shoulder, elbow, or objects coming out.  I have never done it deliberately.

*The bed at this shelter is the most painful I have had since entering the shelter system.  It appears to have springs inside the mattress rather than below it.  The other mattresses were not especially good for my back, but this mattress, which looks the same as the others in the room, has me waking up in pain throughout my upper and lower back each morning.

The shelter does nothing but profit from my pain.  It is impossible for an intelligent, ethical person to support shelters over real housing.

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