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The Imbeciles Are in Charge; or, Does This Photo Show a Health Hazard?

July 28, 2016

Today, my case manager, Louis Burns, was again telling me to downsize my storage and using “blame the victim” techniques against me. I’m getting really sick and tired of it. I have wanted to say worse things about him on my blog, but most times when I see him again, I end up glad I didn’t because operations manager Jorge Olivares has been genuinely kind and decent to me every time I have seen him since the incident that caused me to write a blog insulting him, causing me to want to state for the record that he has emphatically not been the jerk I portrayed him as in that posting (which nonetheless truthfully describes an incident of abusive behavior on his part). For example, last time I saw Mr. Burns, he said it would be “highly unethical” to expect me to move out on my own on unemployment benefits.

This morning, I was really venting on Mr. Burns, first because he is acting as though I chose to be laid off right when I did, even though three other temps were laid off on the very same day that I was. Noting that I have been in the shelter system four years, and at this particular shelter almost two, I am known as a “long-term stayer,” and though he did not actually use the word, he strongly implied that he believed that the shelter system was enabling me. This could not be further from the truth. The fact that I stayed nine months at a job for the modest wage of $12.60 an hour and left involuntarily in a layoff of multiple people demonstrates that I am more than willing to accept dull, tedious work so long as it does not have a negative impact on my medical condition. The job supply is severely contracted, and that is certainly not my choice, any more than it was my choice to graduate college into an economy of net zero job growth before billionaire speculators destroyed the economy with their profligate gambling and lobbying to deregulate banks.

The second, the idea that I should have to downsize my storage (the 10x15x8 unit I rent currently costs almost $275 a month, which was slightly more than a week’s pay) is nothing more than legalized theft of the fruits of my labors. I should not have to put myself through excruciating pain and mortal danger, as I would in a job involving prolonged standing, to earn less than I was getting at my previous job. Since I wasn’t the one who crashed the economy or contracted a job market, it is also very reasonable for me to spend my unemployment, and if necessary, my savings, and if necessary, tax money if I have to go back on public assistance, to retain my personal belongings. It is absolutely not theft for me to use taxpayer money, as I have in the past, to pay for my storage, which, as I have to keep telling Mr. Burns every damn time I see him, they refuse to do in spite of written documentation to the contrary, because it was billionaire gamblers who crashed the economy and ruined the job supply, not poor people with student loan debt, and they have yet to lose anything significant as a result.

The disease of austerity-thinking pervades The Department of Homeless Services. The imbecile employees of DHS informed my counselor that they believe that my room is a health hazard. The above photograph shows what they are calling a health hazard. (The new phone I received after complaining to the FCC, has a camera, but even though it tells me that it’s sending me the message, will not send photos to my e-mail, although I can send them to other people’s phones. I tried attaching the phone to the computer I am typing this on, but the computer is not detecting it in terms of accessing files, although it is charging the battery. I eventually got a friend to e-mail me the photo.) Though the camera on the phone is poor, and my friend and I both had to crank up the brightness quite a bit, it shows two of my hundred-CD crates that I took from storage, the two boxes I received my recent phones in filled with CDs, and a camcorder bag I found on top of a garbage can a few years ago filled with CDs (these three hold about 25 apiece). It also shows a fan with a 12″ blade elevated on the box it came in, and a shopping cart and boxes to facilitate my move when it comes time. This makes my room bearable after two summers of agony, toward the end of which Jorge told me I was indeed allowed to have a fan, and even offered to give me one, but he forgot. (One resident two doors down from me put an air conditioner that he somehow managed to get past security in his room, but he was forced to take it out; fans are allowed, though.) According to Mr. Burns, DHS said this is a health hazard because it would be dangerous in a fire. I do not understand that reasoning. If it is a health hazard, it is a health hazard for anyone in any dwelling to have a CD collection. I could have brought more crates to stack instead of using the boxes, but I was concerned that would be seen as a problem, too, since every time I see my case manager, I am told that I have too much in my room. It is very offensive to me when people who have more than I do tell me that I have too much. I am absolutely certain that the reason that they want this small sampling of my CD collection out of my room is the belief that privation will help me find a job, when that is clearly a malicious lie with no basis in fact. The fact that I averaged a thousand applications and nine interviews per year prior to my last job is testament to that lie. For their fire hazard claim to be true, there would have to be good reason for me to go out the window in the fire. There isn’t. The window opens into a garbage-filled trench with a roof on the first floor, not to a fire escape that can get me to the ground. I would be escaping into a death trap. It is true enough that one time fire fighters had to get to my window because an idiot next door threw a cigarette out the window and caused a plastic bag in the trench to smolder. While I was away, Jorge had to let them into my room so that they could put their fire hoses out the window and extinguish the bag. Considering that happened one time in my two-year stay, that would hardly constitute justification to force me to remove the CDs from where they are. I keep reducing what I have on top of my locker and putting that in storage (which costs me $9 round trip and caused me to get brachial neuralgia the time before last, although that is mostly recovered). Mr. Burns told me I should move my storage into Manhattan for convenience, but that is patently ridiculous both in terms of the monthly rental expense and in the cost of the move.

It is very offensive that the Department of Homeless Services still functions on outmoded lies in order to hurt its clients under the guise of helping them. Steven Banks, who has advocated for the poor his entire career, we thought would clean up the mess when he took over, but he seems to be under some kind of gag control: things he has told to Picture the Homeless about his new policies have been diametrically opposed to what it has learned in its FOIA requests of the actual policies. The true purpose of the shelter system is not to help residents obtain decent work and independence from the shelter system, but for private contractors to profit off the mostly city, but also federal and state funding of $3,500+ per head per month (which mostly goes to the building owner, not the shelter staff), benefiting enormously from residents’ misery.

Another thing I have to keep telling Mr. Burns is that Sam Dennis, the career supervisor at the shelter, refuses to assist me in any way to find work. When he first saw my resume, he said it was the resume of someone looking for $50,000 a year jobs that he wouldn’t know how to get me (as if his limitation is my fault). When I asked to use the computers to look for work, he asked me what kind of work I was looking for. When I told him that I needed a desk job because of my physical condition, he told me “there aren’t any,” and that he wasn’t going to let me “waste my time” using the shelter’s computer lab looking for them. It was at Mr. Dennis’s insistence that I applied for Social Security Disability, even though I do not want to, and got turned down on the grounds that someone with my education can still do a desk job and thus is not disabled, which perverts turn around to say that means I can do any job even though the denial letter specifically states that I am “unable to do certain kinds of work.” My appeal came up right as I got the job with MTA, and my legal aide said that there was no way based on her experience that my assigned judge, Robert C. Dorf, would allow someone working 35 hours a week to get disability, and advised me to drop the case. The nearest public library, Hamilton Fish Park, has only four computers that are under constant demand and would limit my job search to 45 minutes per day, so I take mass transit to a wealthier neighborhood where I get extensions, often, but not always, lasting until closing. Goodtemps took me off their affirmative action disabled list because of an imbecilic new policy requiring me to be either on medication or in current therapy for my disabilities in order to be considered disabled by their standards and prioritized for assignments. My overactive bladder is currently the only other thing that qualifies me on that, but I need to get my doctor to redo the medical statement specifying the limitations it puts on my work. Because my clinic keeps shuffling out my doctor and assigning her caseload to another, from Lily Lam, D.O. (whom I was told left to teach medicine) to Shirley Pham, D.O. (whom I was told got got transferred) to Chui Fan Wong, M.D., I now have a doctor who has never seen me other than to get these documents filled out, and the earliest I was able to schedule a physical with her was October. She was unwilling to write stuff based on what she had on the computer records alone. Even so, neither Gabapentin nor Lyrica has worked on my foot pain, and I had dizzying side effects that made me feel unsafe. I asked my podiatrist about Cymbalta, but all he would give me was 500mg of Naproxen, which does nothing for my foot pain, though it helped with my brachial neuralgia. I remember reading on a message board that Lyrica works on only about 60% of those prescribed, but was not able to find any stats when I looked just now, but a simple Google search showed me that I am far from alone on that matter. The only thing they put me on for my back was generic Vicodin and muscle relaxers, both of which I was told were addicting and that I should stop using as soon as I could bear the pain, so I did. Physical therapy was utterly useless the last time I was on it, and why would I want to take a ton of time off work and lose potential money for something that has no positive effect? The one thing that did work (aside from the potentially addicting medicine) was chiropractic, and the chiropractor who was giving me pro bono services stopped as soon as I was no longer using my cane full-time. Last I knew, he was charging $110 a session. I do get chiropractic at the St. Francis Xavier soup kitchen on Sundays when I can get there, but between church activities and Alt-Banking meetings, I rarely get there, and when I do, the chiropractor isn’t always there (it’s now pretty much always John, who calls me “a project,” who does rather genericized adjustments based on feeling the spine. The young ladies who took meticulous measurements and notes haven’t been there in years, and I understand that Danielle Partain moved back near or to her family of origin in Green Bay, Wisconsin).

Mr. Burns is on my case because my savings is not going up enough. I get less than $200 per week on unemployment, which means that over half of what I receive each month goes to storage and a monthly Metrocard. I might be able to spend less of my unemployment except that HRA, in its infinite wisdom, decided that I need only $16 a month in SNAP benefits, even though I went in for a rebudgeting the moment I had documentation of the amount of my weekly unemployment insurance benefit. I haven’t eaten anything at all today, having apparently nodded off just after the breakfast call and having left the shelter before lunch. When I was at the scum-infested Third Street Shelter that made me seek out soup kitchens to begin with, I was told that the fact that I don’t pay rent on my housing (storage doesn’t count) meant that I get less in SNAP. Clearly that decision was made by imbeciles who never bothered to factor in what living in a shelter is actually like, that the food is not healthy even when it isn’t contaminated as it was at Third Street (processed red meat junk like hot dogs, sausage, pastrami, bologna, corned beef hash, Chef Boyardee beef ravioli, Jamaican beef patties, and other foods that I would never choose to eat and try to avoid when they serve at the shelter–I was nearly a vegetarian and had not eaten red meat in ten years when I became homeless), or that it might not be practical to do job search anywhere near the shelter.

If this is the case, it reiterates my statement that the goal of the shelter system is not help, but privation, and it may not be so much that imbeciles are keeping people out of good jobs, but that their apparent stupidity is really just a mask for strategic capitalistic greed at the expense of the poor, and that the situation is not incompetent people keeping competent people out of work, but unethical people keeping ethical people out of work.

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