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In the Kingdom of the Insane, the Sane Man Is Freak
Above is the bag that Ms. Jackson left on my bed when I complained that I didn’t get a bag lunch, appearing at the breakfast counter at 7:38 AM on President’s Day (breakfast, at which we (except those whose program keeps them in the building) get bag lunches, is served on holidays from 7:00 AM-8:45 AM). Like I said, I don’t think that she’s more than a cog in a non-functioning system.
A book I read around 2003-4, possibly D.G. Compton’s The Unsleeping Eye (basis of Bertrand Tavernier’s film, Death Watch, starring Harvey Keitel, Romy Schneider, and Harry Dean Stanton, which is a very close adaptation), had a refutation of the proverb, “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,” insisting that it isn’t true, the one-eyed man is freak, seeing what others cannot hope to comprehend and with which they cannot possibly relate. I wasn’t able to find the line when attempting to scan for it in said novel. I thought possibly it might have been Steve Gerber, but he was alive and in contact with me at the time, and denied it, saying that it sounded more like Warren Ellis, but I had not read any Warren Ellis, that I knew of, until Matt Hoverman loaned me his copies of the first two trades of The Authority in 2007.
When I met with my caseworker last Wednesday, I was told that I would be sent for an outside psychiatric examination, beyond the general intake examination on file. It seems that some of the staff are afraid of me because of certain “outbursts” I had recently. Apparently, they suspect that I am crazy, because when I was denied access to my electric razors at 8:54 AM on the grounds that I’m supposed to be out of the building by 9 AM, I raised my voice until they got so fed up that they let me have them. Apparently, any sane person would know that a shelter being paid $118 per resident per day by the government wants its residents to leave the facility looking like unshaven bums so that the public has people upon which to look down. In spite of what my Twitter cyberbullies think, I am not a violent person (if I were, they would have transferred me to a next step shelter by now), just because I say that people who want me to spasm and fall in a fast food kitchen deserve a golf club to the spine in a similarly dangerous situation (walking a mile in a man’s shoes, as it were). Indeed, not long ago, a woman on an overcrowded subway train demanded that I take off my backpack, and then kicked me for not having eyes in the back of my head, although I hate using so many clichés together. I drew attention to the fact that she kicked me (as well as ripping my umbrella, which I keep strapped to my backpack when not in use), but I did not treat her with violence. It didn’t even cross my mind to use violence against her until several seconds’ delay, and by then it was only a cognitive musing on what she deserves, not what I should do.
Similarly to their barring me from shaving so soon before leaving (which I do last because of their policy of keeping the electric razors that are my property at the front desk), the shelter has an asinine policy that laundry cards are filled only on the first through sixth day of the month. In February 2014 (and also in March, so we have more bad news to which to look forward), the first fell on a Saturday, and Saturdays and Sundays are the only days on which residents are allowed to do laundry without a special dispensation if they work at those times. There is very typically a traffic jam in the morning, so I’ve learned to do laundry between 5 and 7 PM so as not to waste my entire day waiting to do laundry, but because no one could get their cards filled until the handful of case mangers showed up Saturday morning, it was far worse than usual, which is why I made a request to have my filled the day before, and was denied, because it was not yet the first of the month. When I came back to the shelter a little after 7, I had to wait until nearly 7:45 to put my laundry in, and that required me to stay past 9, when the laundry room is supposed to close, in order to dry them. Around 9:40, I was told that I would have to either take them out damp or leave them in the dryer overnight. Neither of these was acceptable to me. I wanted my pajamas, one of the pieces that takes the longest to dry, for the very cold night it was on February 1, and I wanted to have my bathrobe and clean underwear to put on in the morning for my shower. After a yelling fit at one of the maintenance people, he finally consented to leave it on, let me go back upstairs for the bed count, and let me come back to retrieve my clothing once that was over. Of course, my wanting to do that was so outrageously egregious that it required a yelling fit to get the employee’s consent.
On February 5 at 3:35 PM, I received this whiny, sniveling voice mail from Paul Jardine, sounding like the ultimate gay stereotype:
Hi, good afternoon, how are you? This is Paul Jardine from the Department of Homeless Services, and I am calling to speak to you once again and this time concerning the laundry. Listen, um– Scott, I–I don’t know what your expectations are, but we do run a shelter, and we’re not required to give you laundry, and to do your laundry, so that is something extra that is being done for you, because next you’re going to want us to iron your clothes, too, correct? You know, what I think you really need to do is–is really show some sense of–of appreciation for what is being done. I–I find this very, very concerning to me that you find everything should be just hand-delivered to you, and that’s not the case. OK, that’s not the case it’s gonna be. If you’d like, kindly call me at 212-361-0785, and we can have a fuller conversation, but I really find this very disconcerning [sic]. You know, people are doing a real hard job trying to care of–of–of you, and all we’re getting is slapped in the face for th’it. Have a good day.
The “again” is presumably in regard to the e-mail of January 30, in response to my complaint filed with the DHS commissioner’s office online…
Hi Mr. Hutchins:
I received your complaint that there was no hot water at the Bronx NAICA shelter the morning that you wrote this complaint. In as much as we do you very best to ensure that all basic amenities of our clients are provided there are at times when machines malfunction. My investigation however did not show where there were any problems in the facility on the day you referred to. Bronx Park is a state of the art facility where its climate controlled. That the water was cold one morning for a little while should not be the grounds to accuse anyone misappropriation of funds. Prior to responding to your email I checked and was reassured that the water is warm and that the temperature in the facility is good.
I trust that your stay at Bronx Park is short and that you are able to move on to your own place quickly. Meanwhile we are happy that we are able to provide you the services that you seek.
Thanks for your communication.
I received the following on January 31:
Please see email below. Please discuss with the shelter director.
I am in receipt of this complaint. I checked with our maintenance staff if there has been any reported water temperature problems with negative results. I instructed our super to checked the water with the laser thermometer and the reading revealed a constant water temperature at 122. 9 F. This temperature reading exceeds the minimum building code requirement of 120 F. I also picked a random client from the facility, Patrick Gonzalez CARES # 717044 to confirm there was hot water in the building. Please note there is a possibility of the men depleting the water system when showering and in that case the hot water needs to build up. I have not received any complaints from any other clients at this time. Our staff will continue to monitor the water temperature at the facility.
Executive Site Director
Bronx Park Avenue THF
3339 Park Avenue
Bronx, NY 10456
This is my response of February 8 to Mr. Jardine, which I BCC’d to the staff at Picture the Homeless. They found my message direct and to the point, factually accurate, although not the most honeyed diplomacy…
[The Orthodox Jew identified by name] said that you are a liar. He made a report about the lack of hot at the front desk the same day that I reported it to DHS. It is entirely possible, though, that it did not get to you. I filled out a report that Mark Cruz was threatening me back when we were in the same room, and my caseworker says that she never got it.
As far as your whiny voice mail about how hard it is to run the shelter, I can’t imagine it’s that hard to run a shelter with an average daily revenue of $23,000 from federal tax money, which is more than I’ve ever made in a year in spite of eight years of higher education. If none of that money is expressly supposed to be used to make sure that homeless people can wash their clothes without breaking the bank, there is clearly a lack of oversight between DHS and the private shelters.
Scott Andrew Hutchins
Not surprisingly, Mr. Jardine made no response. I think he realizes that he doesn’t have a leg to stand on when the client is knowledgeable about how the shelter is compensated for its minimum of service. Someone left a comment on my blog about expecting Ritz-Carlton service at a homeless shelter, and my response to that is, if they’re going to receive Ritz-Carlton rates, even if they’re not from me, they should be providing Ritz-Carlton level services. Perhaps not in New York, but in most places, $118 a night is luxury hotel rates. It’s difficult to show appreciation for something when you know that people are making an enormous profit off of your misery, all the way up to Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose Help U.S.A., a shelter provider with his sister as CEO, makes enormous profits off homeless people while Cuomo has demanded that no provisions for housing subsidies are to be in the state budget.
It’s funny that Mr. Jardine thought that I expected the shelter to do my laundry for me. I never said anything of the sort. At Project Renewal, they did the laundry for us, but restricted it to ten garments a week. Had my unemployment run out during my stay at Project Renewal, I would have complained about that. Bellevue, the intake shelter, had washers available certain days a week, and they always had machines available. Eddie Harris, although they often went out of service, including the entire first month and a half I was there, had a laundry room for client use that opened at 3 PM each day for client use. The fact that they insisted on ten garments only full service laundry was objectionable to me, so I took it down the street to do myself. Now that I no longer receive unemployment benefits, that really isn’t an option, although, as mentioned previously, when I did my laundry last weekend (I generally do it biweekly, since I have enough underclothing in my suitcase for two weeks), I drew off my savings (shelter residents with income other than public assistance are required to have savings and avoid unnecessary withdrawals). All I asked is that when the first day of the month is on a Saturday, we should be allowed to get our laundry cards filled on the weekday prior, and that there should be more put on the card, since the second time I do it in the month, there is never enough to dry more than one load for one cycle. They don’t put actual money on the card, as it is, they just push some buttons to program it with the money, and can it really hurt someone making $3,533 a month off my misery alone to give me a two extra dollars per month to dry my clothes? No, that means I’m insanely greedy.
Although the meetings of Picture the Homeless are open, the contents are not something that I broadcast on my blog for various reasons. We did have a discussion at a recent meeting about our plan to get the government to divert funding from DHS to invest in community land trusts. Housing Campaign Organizer Ryan Hickey, a paid staff member who was a part of Occupy London, raised the question about what can be done to make sure that no one is kicked out of a shelter by this funding diversion. The universal response was that no one should have to be kicked out, because the shelters receive excessive funding in terms of service provided. The issue was making sure that the Department of Homeless Services forces the shelters to open their books (although the issue that the shelters would just start keeping two sets of books was raised, as well), show how much that they are spending versus what they are providing, and it will be incredibly obvious that there need to be no cuts in service when there are cuts in funding.
There is zero possible justification why the shelter should receive $3,533 per month in order to house me. At the time of my housing court struggle, my one-bedroom, rent-stabilized apartment in the Bronx was having a rent hike (in spite of rent stabilization) from $981.93 to $1,018.75, including heat and hot water. The shelter pays barely over minimum wage to the security staff; the caseworkers, for the most part, don’t have social work degrees and don’t have to be paid much, either. The bulk of the money is surely going to staff higher-ups such as Mr. Jardine, Ms. Rodriguez, Mr. Southerland, Mr. Soto, and especially to Eddie LaGuerre, the CEO. The only possible justification for forcing me out of my apartment and into a shelter at more than triple the cost is cronyism, which is neither a valid nor ethical reason for them not to have simply paid my rent on my apartment until such time as I could do it myself.
One of my Twitter attackers, @rebel_herfer, was telling me recently that the fact that I mentioned that my first caseworker at Project Renewal, Felicia Smith, didn’t think that I was trying to find a job, and that that, therefore, proves that I am lazy. Ms. Smith saw me once every two weeks, and at each meeting, she collected my job search log (unlike her replacement and my caseworker at NAICA, she did not make photocopies and let me keep them for my records). She probably typed about ten words per minute with the one finger that did not have an elaborate manicure, at which she often stared while not typing and listening to me. She also admitted to me that she has no more than a high school diploma, and wondered why I wasn’t applying for security jobs when she had all of my medical documentation in front of her. Of course someone with only a high school diploma would wonder why someone with a master’s degree was having such a hard time finding jobs when hers was practically handed to her on a silver platter! She also left ignominiously, and it took quite a while before people got reassigned case managers. No one gave any comment why she left, but the fact that no staff were willing to comment on it leads me to believe that she was fired for incompetence. Usually if someone moves on to a job with better pay or prestige, there is pride and celebration, not hushed tones of “no comment.” In other words, @rebel_herfer was saying that someone else’s stupidity proves my laziness. If any statement is in indicator of insanity, it is that one.