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Tuesday Psychological Torture
When I first met with my new case manager Luisitio Medina, he told me about a place he wanted to move me. He said very little about it. He said that it was in Brooklyn, that no one there would be getting high (a lot of guys smoke K2 or even real marijuana near the shelter, but I rarely smelled it in the restrooms and never in the dorm), that it would be eight guys in a private house with no curfew, that it would take the HRA $215, and when pressed, he said that HRA would cover my storage just as it does with shelter residents. He advised me to shop at Aldi to conserve food stamps, and acted like I was completely unfamiliar with it (it’s new in the NYC area, but there is one in the Hub, and another at 117th and Pleasant Avenue in Harlem). He said that he would give me an appointment letter to look at the place, and was scheduling my move out for August 1, so certain he was that I would like the place. This was July 16. July 18, I was heading out early for the Picture the Homeless housing committee retreat and a doctor’s appointment (a 20 minute walk from PtH). They said that they had a notice for me, but I walked out before I got it. When I returned in the evening, they had me sign the notice for an appointment at 9 AM that morning. The following morning, a residential advisor told me that I was supposed to have moved out the day before. I said that if that’s true, he gave them completely different information than he gave me.
On Tuesday morning, July 22, Luisito Medina stopped me as I was leaving the facility and made me come back inside, and told me that I needed to see the place. He then made me pack all my belongings. With two other guys, after many hours’ wait, I was taken in the van to 1147 Rev James Polite Avenue in the Bronx (not Brooklyn), near 167th Street and Prospect Avenue (the shelter is on a triangle formed by 165th Street, Park Avenue, and Clay Avenue). The residential advisor who told me that my move out was on Friday was in the passenger seat, and he and the driver helped me unload my belongings from the van. They told the maintenance guy that they spoke to the director and that he was expecting me. Once my property was on the porch, they abandoned me. The maintenance guy told me that I had too much with me (all of which fit in my locker at the shelter with room to spare) and that I would have to take things to storage later. He carelessly picked up the NBC Sports duffel loaded with books that was given to me by the late Annette White, accidentally ripped the handle because he picked it up with one rather than both, and tried unsuccessfully to glue it back, then tied it off as he admitted to me that he failed. He also said that it was house policy that I could keep only a small number of clothes with me, and that I would have to wash them at my own expense, regardless of the fact that I had no cash on me, would have to draw out of savings (with the nearest TD Bank at 157th and Broadway in Manhattan, that would cost me), and had just washed my clothes at the shelter on Saturday. I didn’t know what to do about my dry clean only suit. The place was so new that none of the furniture was set up, and bunk beds still in the boxes littered the floor. There was no soap in the bathroom, and the seating was extremely makeshift, consisting of painted benches that looked like they were not designed for that purpose so narrow that they were not the slightest bit comfortable, and chairs that looked more like plant stands.
When the director, Terrence Jeffries, finally arrived, he took everyone into his office individually. He did not know who I was, aside from having been given my name, and asked me from where I had come, and I said the NAICA Bronx Park Avenue homeless shelter. He then clarified that he meant what substance abuse program I had previously been in. I told him I had never been in a substance abuse program and had spent 26 months in the shelter system because of my physical limitations and the fact that my master’s degree had not made me competitive in the job market for my field or any other, He said that this was a problem, because this is a program for people coming out of addiction programs, not a housing program, and that he would need to make this clear in the future when dealing with people. He said that the shelter would need to take me back or that he would have to take me somewhere else. He did not say where, but I hoped he did not mean the drop-in center on Barretto Street in Hunt’s Point where my friend (Annette’s boyfriend) picked me up. He would not be able to pick me up that day, being out of the country at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
As Mr. Jeffries interviewed the other men, and I sat through episode after episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (which was making me more anxious than anything else, although I didn’t ask them to change the channel. I noticed one episode was written by Christos N. Gage. I thought sure I knew his name from some sort of online networking, but it turns out he’s a comic book writer, whose name I most likely know because creator names on the cover has been standard since the late 1990s (DC started this on select titles in the early 1980s). As they were discussing where they needed to be because of canes and so forth, he mentioned that the curfew was 11 PM, so here was another bit of false information given to me by Mr. Medina.
Throughout the hours I spent at the “sober home,” as I learned such a facility was called, I made numerous phone calls, although no one was really able to provide much help. My mother said that she would send me the $100 she was planning to send me in August on the following day to help me cover the storage that I would have to be paying by August 1 thanks to the false statements of Angelica Jimenez and Natalya Castro. It degenerated into her saying she couldn’t have me because of the abuse. I said that the abuse went both ways and hung up. Nobody who had a car could come get me, and though it was possible for me to carry all my gear for short distances, it was extremely impractical, and even the small amount I carried it was extremely abusive to m back. I also talked with the attorneys from MFY Legal services, who kept pressuring me to fax them the public assistance discontinuance notice even though I was stranded and the director’s office was not set up to send a fax. When the director said that the shelter had been dishonest with both of us, and he appeared to be sympathizing with me, I said that I was working with a legal clinic and I had been talking to them, and that NAICA was probably behaving illegally and I hoped they would be unable to get away with this.
When Mr. Jeffires finally got on the phone with people from the shelter, I spoke with Mr. Hughes and Mr. Medina. They said that I had told Mr. Jeffries I had somewhere else to go. I told them that I had mentioned that if the shelter wouldn’t take me, I would have to go back to the intake at Bellevue. He told me that if I went to Bellevue, I would be sanctioned from the shelter system for a year for rejecting permanent housing, so I had better find family or friends with whom I could stay. Mr. Jeffries was confirming that I would not be able to stay there, but after he talked with them a bit, he produced a letter that said that I had thought that a sober home was not a good fit for me because of my lack of substance abuse issues.
Mr. Scott Hutchins Was Referred to our facility, “Foxhurst Sober Living”, a facility for individuals With past drug problems. he explained to Me he has no past issues and that this would not be an appropriate Housing for him and I refered him back to his Shelter!
The lawyer from MFY legal said that this was better than nothing, because at least it would show that I had gone willingly to the place and allowed them to leave me there. I don’t know if this is legal grounds for sanctioning me from the shelter system. It seems unlikely with Steven Banks, commissioner of HRA, would allow someone in my situation to become street homeless over this. given his history of legal battles for the right of New Yorkers to shelter when everyone was telling him not to do so.
One of friends, as well as my contact at MFY, advised that my best bet was to walk home if the shelter staff wouldn’t come for me. Eventually, Mr. Medina came in and asked me what the problem was. Mr. Jeffries was in my sight line but not his, and seemed to be implying that much of what Mr. Medina said to me about his dealings with him was untrue. He told me that I would be taken back to the shelter and reassigned the same bed (which Mr. Hughes had said on the phone had already been allocated to someone else), but that I should expect a DHS administrative transfer to another shelter, possibly Ward’s Island.
The sober home is only two blocks north of the shelter and ten blocks east. When they drove me back, they kept going north. Mr. Medina, presumably thinking I wasn’t paying any attention, was having conversations with other employees on his cell phone, discussing their gaming competitions and how that they had made their “move out quota” fir the month. Eventually, my fears were allayed when we arrived at the Anthony Avenue Annex, NAICA’s new working shelter, a tenement building marked “VISITORS ONLY NO GUESTS.”
When we arrived back at the shelter, I was told that the social services director needed to speak to me. The former social services director, Shawon Taylor, the one who scrutinized my limp and sent me to a next step shelter, got fired, and everyone had told me that the new one, Ms. Carter, whom I had barely seen, was even worse. When I explained to her that I had been in the shelter system for 26 months, unless I misheard her, she said “that’s almost three years,” which caused me to not think much of her intelligence. She insisted that Mr. Jeffries had not said that he could not take me, and I accused her of lying and began to raise my voice. A light-skinned bespectacled black man in turquoise and tan plaid, sitting awkwardly in a chair to make room for a slotted cardboard decoration in a frame, said what I thought sounded like “Why are you lying?” but he then said he had actually said, “Why are you telling?” and I said, “Because you people won’t stop lying.”
When she had me explain that my homelessness was the result of physical challenges, being unable to find office work as a result of extreme competition (CareerBuilder has lately showed me thousands of people applying to single opening data entry jobs) and perceptions of overqualification on the part of the employers. At this point, she told me she wanted me to call GoodTemps every day because they are chartered to help people with disabilities first. When I brought up the issue of how I pay to do my laundry when I have no income, she told me to get a PRI form from my doctor so that they could get me into assisted living where the staff would do my laundry for me. This is a replication of Paul Jardine’s infamous lie, demonstrating complete inability to understand the English language, insipidly equating an income-expense comparison to wanting others to do things for me. When I first contacted DHS in regard to the NAICA laundry policy (in which washing is restricted to Saturdays and Sundays, no holidays, and the machines are operated by a card which is topped up to ten dollars each month, when to do my laundry properly requires $5.50 every two weeks, and some months have five weekends, but they refill the cards only on the first through sixth of the month), I mentioned specifically that because I was receiving unemployment insurance benefits at the time, which I no longer am, I did not even allow the shelter staff at Project Renewal, with their ridiculous 10 garments per week rule, to do my laundry for me, but took it to the laundromat down the street. To a subliterate like Paul Jardine, this meant that I wanted other people to do my laundry for me, a notion contradicted entirely by what I wrote. Ms. Carter also insisted that Mr. Jeffries only said what he said because I had, she alleges, threatened him with a lawsuit. Radio says that such claims demonstrate that she has a “hood mentality.”
Ms. Carter mentioned something about supportive housing. When Paul Jardine met with me, program analyst Lena Rodriguez, who back in December 2012 had sent me a letter telling me that it was unbecoming to identify such wrongdoers by name, was in the meeting, and she told me that they would try to get me into supportive housing. The bespectacled one told me that my 2010E was submitted, but I was found ineligible because my psychological examination came back clean. As far as the system is concerned, there are only two disabilities–mental illness and substance abuse, and I have neither. Not even blindness is considered a disability. We had a regular at Picture the Homeless who was legally blind going on totally blind. The first shelter in which they placed her had six women in one room, and she got robbed regularly, but then she was transferred to a shelter where she had her own room. Then she was transferred to a shelter with eight women in a room, and no matter how much she fought, DHS insisted that this was her shelter, and she ended up moving in with a cousin in Utica to avoid more theft, but even that could be only a temporary situation. I would love to meet the person who decided “Substance abuse is a disability, but blindness is not.” I wonder if I could control myself if left alone with a person who has caused so much suffering to hundreds of thousands of people, myself included.
Anyway, for the time being, I am back in my shelter bed (at night, anyway), and GoodTemps has submitted me for an office assistant position paying $15.67 an hour, but it doesn’t start until the end of August, and I am not guaranteed the position. My new doctor was happy to fill out the forms, but she did make me go through all the questions and could not understand why someone with a master’s degree would be skeptical about finding employment after two years of homelessness. She didn’t know what the PRI form was, but said that she would be happy to fill it out if Ms. Carter sent me with one to her. One of my Occupy acquaintances knocked GoodTemps, but hopefully it will be good enough to get me into an apartment via CATCH, although I have not heard from Ken Wray as of this writing.
John Sheehan, the social worker at All Souls Unitarian Church, who is a big fan of my blog, said that he was a big time crusader against sober homes and got many of them shut down on Long Island. He also said that no one can be forced into one under the law–entry into such programs must be voluntary. Even a judge has to give you a choice between a substance abuse program and jail. My contact at MFY thinks that what NAICA did to me was illegal, but they need to do more research to confirm this.
The shelter’s conversion to MICA seems almost complete. It’s getting harder and harder to find a toilet seat in the morning that isn’t covered with urine, and everyone was telling me last night that a guy bloodied himself and caused a huge disturbance. John kept me until 9 PM, so I missed it, and made it in only two minutes before curfew. He said that the phrase “move out quota” is indicative of a money-making scam.