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Laundry Rights

October 10, 2014

A struggling young woman with the Twitter handle @SweetLilTracy is a sad case of brainwashing.  She doesn’t realize that while she is a nuisance to a leftist like me (telling me to flip burgers in spite of my medical condition, and to move to Seattle to do it because their minimum wage is $15, although I’ve heard horror stories about people who went there, took minimum wage customer service jobs, and ended up back in NYC because the cost of living was so high and there is far less poor relief), she is a useful idiot to those on the right, defending others’ abuse and exploitation of her. John Sheehan, the social worker at All Souls Unitarian church, agreed wholeheartedly when I told him about this.  Monday before last, he recommended Regulating the Poor:  The Functions of Public Welfare by Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward, a classic sociology text from 1971.  He told me that this is the book that made him want to get into social work, and also noted that Piven is in her eighties and still speaks at events.  Their agent for the book was Frances Goldin, whom I interviewed for a documentary by Joshua Barndt (Frances is in her nineties and has reduced her personal clientele to Mumia Abu-Jamal and Barbara Kingsolver, and told me to apply through her agency, which I’ve done).  Piven is also credited in the acknowledgments as one of the readers of an early manuscript version of Bait and Switch.  Their basic premise is that the explosion of welfare cases in the sixties is because the Great Society motivated the poor and organizations supporting them to put pressure on welfare providers to provide services to those who were eligible under the law, rather than the frequent arbitrary and capricious denials that had previously been implemented.  In other words, the number of people eligible for assistance did not grow much, but the number actually granted assistance rose.  Business fought back, extremely hard during the eighties, because poor relief has always been about quelling the masses and preventing riots while having a steady workforce of unpaid and underpaid labor available for the capitalists, who shame those who do not work even though they are the ones who create massive fluctuations in job availability.  Piven and Cloward’s revised edition of the book came out in 1993, and mentions soaring income inequality under Ronald Reagan (361), long before it became a buzzword thanks to Occupy Wall Street.  In the 1990s, when I was in high school, I naïvely believed Rush Limbaugh’s lies about how under Reagan, “the rich got richer, and the poor got richer, too,” but that is only true in terms of actual dollars.  When adjusted for inflation, the purchasing power of the poor plummeted, and the value of their benefits plummeted as well.  When on public assistance, I was forced to work 35 hours a week for a grand total of $45 a month.  I’m currently receiving $20.75 every two weeks from public assistance, plus $30 each week to pay for a Metrocard to get to and from the back to work program.  The idea of the welfare queen is a complete myth put forward by the right.  Statistics even prove that welfare recipients are actually intimidated into having fewer children, but to be a right-winger is to be a shill for the ruling class, parroting whatever falsehoods they want promulgated, which brings us back to @SweetLilTracy, who thought it was whiny for me to address something as supposedly trivial as the laundry issue in this blog.

One of the groups that put pressure on welfare providers to obey the letter of the law was Mobilization for Youth (MFY).  Picture the Homeless has put me in contact with Daniela Robles of MFY Legal Services, and she has worked with me a number of times, particularly with HRA foolishness.  I contacted her about the laundry issue, and she left me the following on voice mail:

The shelter is supposed to allow you to do your laundry.  It shouldn’t be a pillowcase policy.  You should be able to do your laundry as much as you want, but regarding what you have told me about their one-pillowcase policy, and they seem very adamant about enforcing it, we don’t actually deal with that here, but you need to contact Coalition for the Homeless, and they will help you with that.

I’m not quite sure about the last line, because I wasn’t able to write it all down before my phone deleted it.  I haven’t gone to Coalition for the Homeless yet, because they make you go early in the morning, regardless of the issue, and there isn’t much help provided.  Tony Taylor is still in charge, and all he had me do was fill out a grievance.  One guy at Eddie Harris complained about Tony Taylor all the time and said that any grievance you submit through him ends up in the circular file.  I do not know if this is true.  One of our regulars at Picture the Homeless said that Tony Taylor is the best person there, but that that is not saying much.

The point of this entry is not whether Coalition for the Homeless is a useful entity.  The point is that the shelter is contracted with the city to provide certain services for a certain amount of money.  If anyone is a welfare queen, it’s a shelter that does not provide the required services, which is a violation under the law.  It makes no sense to describe calling for obedience of the law “whiny.” After all, NYPD enjoys dealing with supposed violations of the law by strangling suspects who are not even committing the violation in question.  I am not asking for any of the shelter staff to be strangled, and as annoying as one particular case manager (who doesn’t work directly with me) is, I would not want it, either.  I just want them to comply with the law, and so far, none of my shelters have been in full compliance with the law, while still making a fortune off my presence that could have been used to put me in decent housing and get my belongings out of storage.  This is to what I am objecting.  I am being extremely reasonable.  It is the right-wingers, who want me to torture myself doing physical labor for a pittance, who are being unreasonable and whiny. My not working costs the average taxpayer a whopping $0.00000010286 each year (math done based on info at http://www.whitehouse.gov/2012-taxreceipt).  Anyone who would rather me be in excruciating pain, going against the advice of doctors, and at an abnormally high probability of injury (relative to a non-disabled person at a similar job) to save themselves that amount of money, is more miserly than Ebeneezer Scrooge was before his encounter with the Ghosts of Christmas.

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