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Soap Returns After Eighty Days

October 29, 2014

Did it go around the world?  Thursday night is exactly eighty days after I arrived at The Bowery Mission Transitional Housing Facility.  And Thursday night, when I returned from the Picture the Homeless Gala, was the first time the east restroom on the third floor had soap in it.  The other two were refilled, too.  It had gone back to the Eddie Harris days when I had to bring my bar soap to the restroom every time I had to use the toilet.  When you put in “Eddie Harris Men’s Shelter” on Google, the first thing that came up, at least before I started blogging about it, was a list of their 2009 violations.  One of these was lack of hand soap in the bathrooms.  It was still an issue in 2012 when I resided there.  This is really important, because it shows that the city just continues to pay a ridiculous amount of money for shelter services when the shelters refuse to correct any of their violations. There isn’t a whole lot of difference between this and the HSBC money laundering scam, aside from the fact that money laundering is a felony and this is merely a violation.  The principle remains the same.  Whatever slap on the wrist they receive is treated as a cost of doing business, and they are never forced to stop doing what they should not be doing. It seems shocking to me that whatever fine with which the shelter is charged for not supplying soap in the restrooms would be less than the annual cost to stock the restroom with soap–if it were less expensive to stock the restroom with soap than to pay a fine for not doing it, surely they would buy the soap instead of pay the fine.

My caseworker, whose talk of the devil in the cafeteria reminds one of Antonin Scalia, finally got on me for not attending the 7 AM meeting, which the the handbook says is relapse prevention.  I said that OASAS laws prohibits them from forcing me to attend, and he insisted it wasn’t a substance abuse thing. He says we can all relapse.  His relapse is the fact that he has 400 suits even though he doesn’t need nearly so many.  In his office, he displays several awards from The Bowery Mission’s parent organization for being the best-dressed employee. He told me to find a job I’d need to be out before 7 AM. I don’t know what kind of job he expects me to get at 7 AM, unless he’s psychotic enough to think a guy with multiple herniated discs, sciatica, and plantar fasciitis should work in a construction job. I asked a friend, and she started talking about teachers and city administrators, but I told her that I said “get” a job, not “have” a job.

My case manager misreads Luke 17 when he calls same-sex marriage a sign of the end times, so I’m guessing he’s pulling Arvernetta Henry-type schtick with “a man who don’t work don’t eat,” and willfully ignoring all disabilities, telling me, “it’s your choice to live in a homeless shelter,” which is true only in the sense that I choose it over the street or couchsurfing (which I tried unsuccessfully before entering the shelter system) and losing my storage (HRA pays for the storage of shelter dwellers, but not couch surfers) . Recently, Ms. Henry yelled at me for receiving group e-mail from me. She thinks only women have the right to complain about being homeless. Of course, this is not what the Bible says, except in a few obscure translations, and the grammar here is that of Ms. Henry, retired school teacher. She said to me, “I think if you applied to New York City Teaching Fellows, you would be accepted.” When I replied, “So you’re telling me I didn’t receive two postcards in the mail telling me that they were not interested in interviewing me?” at which point she screamed so loudly that I was “up in her business” that several members of the staff came running out to see what was going on. Reverend Shawn Moninger, minister of Unity of Norwalk and partner of David Friedman, advises never denying other people’s experiences. This is an extremely concrete example of this in effect. Often, the situation is that two people experience the same event differently, but there is no valid way to say that the postcards I received never existed when she was not there. The postcards probably do still exist buried in storage, since I have a tendency to retain records like this.

Two weeks ago at the pre-service at Unity of New York, Angela Leigh Tucker got us a wonderful bit of clarification in from class facilitator Carol Dacey-Charles. The third Unity principle, which says that we create our experiences, is a big challenge for her, as it is with me. She said that she is not able to accept that she caused the car accident that killed her husband and sister and left her in a coma for two months that left her seriously brain damaged (her story is public knowledge, having been told at least twice from the platform, as well as in the September-October Daily Word, which is distributed throughout the world in multiple languages). It’s not that she created the accident, Carol explained, but she created how she experienced it. She has become a vocal spokesperson for people with brain damage and thinks that she has become a better person. Similarly, my homeless situation has severely stepped up my political action and caused me to write significantly more than I had been in the previous few years, while I’ve heard stories of people who were made homeless by Hurricane Sandy becoming mentally ill (severe depression, etc.) by the experience. My 2010E housing package was rejected for lack of evidence of mental illness or substance abuse on my part, although they made me go through all the evaluations, anyway.

I’m not interested in debating my case manager on the Bible apart from these two passages. The guy is a preacher by trade and has a degree from Anderson University–he showed me his transcript. That’s a Jesuit school in Anderson, Indiana that I know fairly well. One of the plays I saw there was The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged). After the show, I told the director, Ruth Hawkins, that the only play I noticed missing was Coriolanus, and she said that they were forced to cut the only lines about it because the joke was that it was “the anus play,” a less sophisticated version of a similar joke in Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo, while my public school study of classical Latin leads me to pronounce it a different way that is also considered correct. My case manager told me that he was aware of my blog because Paul Jardine showed it to him,so I won’t throw him under the busby using his name just yet. I know he hates computers, so perhaps he won’t see this, since I’m burying this in an entry with a different title that deals with other issues at the shelter. When he asked me on intake about my religious background, I told him that I had been a member of the Unity Church since 1980. He recorded this as “Believe in Christ Jesus,” which I’m not going to deny, although he’d probably condemn me if he were aware of its teachings, given the sorts of condemnations that I’ve personally heard come from his mouth, although never directed at any person present. This is the only shelter that asked for details about religious background (most ask yes or no about a religion and go no further), and social worker John Sheehan is surprised that The Bowery Mission is allowed to have a shelter at all given their well known mandatory church attendance for their famous soup kitchen. I told him that they said that religious classes are all voluntary, but the lobby is full of Bible quotations. He said that he knew that there would be some way this organization would sneak religion into residents’ daily life.

One of the worst rules at the shelter is their half hour window for meals versus the two hour window at Bronx Park Avenue, especially when the shelter is a half hour bus ride from the subway stop, and their unwritten dress code for attending breakfast within this small window. The posted rule is that no bare feet, open toed shoes are not allowed in the cafeteria. I have never broken this rule, since this is not a way I would ever appear. I have been treated as though I have broken this rule for appearing in pajamas, socks, and closed-toe slippers. Whether winter or summer pajamas, they fully cover me, the only significant difference being the weight of the material. When I got on the staff for enforcing a different rule than what was posted. My case manager said that I chose the wrong argument, which he said should have been that they waited two months to tell me. I hate to put on clean clothes without showering first, so unless I have a good reason to get up before 6:30, let the public address system wake me up and throw my clothes over my pajamas, then put my shoes on. That way, nothing is directly on my skin that wasn’t already, and I can come back up and shower. It’s an asinine solution to an asinine rule, but the best of a bad situation. It’s particularly bad because the heat, when on, is on hard. When I came “home” the other night, the heat was on so hard that I put on my summer pajamas and was only partially covered by my sheet. I woke up from a dream in which William Shatner was guiding me and an elderly couple on rowboats through a frozen New York Bay, probably a lingering memory of the Challenge to Survive trailer.

The way the shelter currently works, it seems, is “one size fits none,” and my recognition of that makes me a target for abuse. I only hope that my case manager simply forgot about my medical condition, which would not surprise me. This meeting was the first in which he did not ask me for my tuberculosis test result, which I believe I had for him by the third meeting (shelter residents need to be tested once per year, and it was about that time when I transferred). Regardless, for several meetings, I told him he should have that in his folder, to which he responded, after a bit of searching, “Yes, I do, I surely do.” So far no one in real life has treated me with the cruelty of the cyberbullies on Twitter, and my case manager, telling me he would be on my side if I pick my battles well (he says that I fight everything, which is probably true–an Occupier at heart, all the issues are connected), and battling with the shelter staff about employment no one in their right mind would have me do is not a battle that I want to face.

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