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“You are being transferred because administrative transfer.”

February 4, 2018

Monday evening, I returned to the shelter to be told that I was being transferred by 1/31/18 “because administrative transfer,” as were nine other residents at CAMBA Opportunity House. I checked the box objecting, which says that that requires a supervisory hearing. At least one other resident–I’ll call him Peter since he looks like Peter Griffin and his real surname is a competitor–did the same thing. None of us were told to which shelter we would be transferred, so speculations included Hunt’s Point and Billionaire’s Row, two new shelters covered in the press recently.

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The following day, I filled an IKEA bag with materials to take to storage, including about half of the comic books and many of the books, as much as would fit without giving me the impression it would tear the bag, and carried it to storage, in order to facilitate the move. Since one of my clients bought me a laptop, I couldn’t help pulling some recent music acquisitions–three versions of Hair–off-Broadway, Broadway, and film–but couldn’t get at any DVDs, not that I’d want to bring much. There was still too much in my locker and not enough notice to deal with it. I wasn’t able to get any of the few people I know with a car to assist me. It totally threw off my plans for the day, including returning a library book, which I couldn’t even renew at the shelter because the door was locked that morning. I did make it back from storage in time to do that, but I left the laptop in my locker because I didn’t want to carry that in addition to my load. I went to the Bloomingdale Library when I finished in storage because it’s near church, where I was attending class that night, but that item belongs to the Brooklyn Public Library, so I just renewed it.

Wednesday morning I still had no news as to the shelter to which I would be transferred. I wanted to go to a meeting where I was expected (representing Picture the Homeless), but I had let them know the transfer would likely cause interference. Neither Peter nor I had our request for a hearing honored, which I told him I expected because this request was not honored when I was transferred from NAICA Bronx Park Avenue to The Bowery Mission Transitional Housing Facility, which turned out to be a good thing. I couldn’t leave without consequences, but around the time my meeting would have ended, I and the others were ordered to turn ion our locks and pack. The weight of the remaining books and comics necessitated a split into two bags, and we were already told two bags would be the maximum or the shelter would throw it away. I learned about Joan Aiken’s novel, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, while freelancing for R.L. Migdal Creative Multimedia. I wrote a press release about its fiftieth anniversary that was rejected simply because they noticed a style change from Migdal’s own writing. I am in the middle of reading the book now after having acquired a copy at a thrift store, and it was not difficult to see parallels in my situation with the machinations of Miss Slighcarp.

They told us that a DHS bus was coming for the ten of us to take us to the still undisclosed shelter. Soon this was revised, and I was told to take the train. I had an immediate blowup because my baggage would not be carryable to the train that they quickly calmed. Their attitude seemed to have little respect for the stress that I was under, which they blamed entirely on DHS. It turns out there was some truth to the bus claim. CAMBA staff would be transporting whatever we did not take with us to the new shelter. I was the first to leave, taking my backpack, my briefcase with the laptop, and rolling suitcase. I hated trusting some of my oldest and most valuable comicbooks, which I had been in the midst of reading, to the staff. Some of them even had price tags on the polybags. They aren’t outrageously valuable–$25 price tags I didn’t necessarily pay for them, but they were difficult to acquire and would be a problem to replace monetarily and otherwise. They have not been reprinted in color if at all. These include Showcase #80 and The Phantom Stranger (1969) 1-10, issues of the first Supergirl series bought mainly for the Zatanna backups, The Spectre (1967) #2, Journey Into Mystery #78, and DC 100-Page Super Spectacular #4, which I had been reading over several nights recently. That one was a steal for $9.99 in Good. It usually goes for much more even in that condition.

The printout they gave us how to get there was the final insult. Rather than inputting the address, they just decided to tell us to go to the Greenpoint Avenue stop on the G train because the new shelter, the City View Inn, is on Greenpoint Avenue. I hated dragging my rolling suitcase up and down so many steps as I tried to determine with the dying battery of my phone what the nearest subway stop to the shelter actually was and not getting good answers when the address indicated was clearly not on the local map in the Greenpoint Avenue station. I sometimes had to yell at people who wanted to lift it up at the front to help me, which is a great way to hurt my herniated discs, as advised to me by my massage therapist, who showed me the technique I was using with a folding shopping cart and warned about receiving help, which I also have learned the hard way by insistent people. I bellowed at a guy who ignored my first two “Please don’ts” because he apparently couldn’t hear me under his over-the-ear headphones. Eventually I determined that the nearest stop was 33rd Street-Rawson Avenue on the 7, which is at least transferable from the G. It was still a long walk (I had my cane with me), and difficult to find because of the tangled roads made by the Long Island Expressway, even though I saw the name on the roof well before I got very close.

The shelter still looks like a hotel, albeit, as noted in the mostly horrible Yelp reviews of when it was a Best Western, with bulletproof glass at the front desk. There are even travel brochures on the first floor.

When I got upstairs, my three bags were sitting in the hallway. I was told that was more than I could bring in the room. I told them that everything fit in my locker at my previous shelter, which is true apart from the backpack I always take with me. They said that they understand but because this is a short term stay, I need to remove it. They said that they would store them temporarily, but they would have to be removed. I pulled out a lot of the necessities (no books or comics except the library materials). They hovered over me as I searched for the things I needed. I wasn’t able to find my recently purchased tube of Aqua Fresh, and eventually gave up after seeing a large hole in the bottom of the bag. They do have other toothpaste for us. They had me put post-its on the bags in spite of the pieces of paper CAMBA gave us that had my name on them in large letters.

They then gave us a lunch of mini chicken sandwiches that were scorchingly overheated in the microwave that we sat in the hallway to eat. At the intake meeting, the house rules were explained to me. Even though they give us the food to eat in our rooms, we are prohibited from bringing outside food. The guy explaining it said that he thought it was a rule to just to have a rule and didn’t agree with it but had to enforce it. We are also not allowed to use the stairways in spite of the ridiculously slow elevator (which is a major complaint in the Yelp reviews from when this was a hotel). Until they get more security staff, we always have to report to the second floor when leaving the building to sign out, and in when we return.

I was brought to the room, and there was Peter. He’s definitely the devil you know. He’s in his underwear a lot, and I often have to see his filthy feet, especially if I eat at the table in the room, which was in the hall for the forthcoming security guard to sit at, but Peter switched them because the one in our room was falling apart, kind of like the beds, which keep sliding. Mine has given out in places as I’ve sat here writing this with the intermittent WiFi. Peter said he saw what was probably an Aquafresh tube outside the building, but it wasn’t there by the time I left the building. The room has a TV and a mini refrigerator. The latter is rather pointless given that outside food is prohibited. The room seems to have standard DHS regulation electrical sockets of the sort that are loose and difficult to keep the plug in. On the other hand, the alarm clock is jerry-rigged so that it can’t be unplugged. The caps on the lamp shades are missing so that they are easily knocked off, there is a big stain on the ceiling that is probably mold, and the bathtub drain is backed up. So far, I’ve asked twice to have this addressed. I suspect Drano will be contraband like the miniature scissors in the men’s manicure set I purchased after Greyhound’s delay in my luggage. They didn’t take the scissors away that I saw, since I agreed that they would be among what I didn’t take to my room. The rooms take key cards, but they leave those to security instead of the residents, something even a shelter as Draconian as NAICA Bronx Park Avenue did not do–at that shelter, everyone in the room had a key card that worked only for that room. As if to simulate the environment we were in at CAMBA, Peter would often keep the TV on while he was using his laptop. Often it would be USA marathons of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, which helped to keep me tense during the worst transfer experience of my homelessness. This wasn’t too bad this time. There was even an excellent performance from Robin Williams in one of them.

For my peace of mind, I had planned to take Lyft to storage the next morning, but I did nothing because I threw up three times. The previous night’s meal had been a cheese pizza meal with carrots and green beans that was overcooked to the point that all the cheese was off the pizza and stuck to the side of the tray. Mine got cold on the walk to the train, which is about 20 minutes from here, almost enough to make me use my cane every day. I had to leave where I was going at 8:45 to make it in by 9:52. With the WiFi here, intermittent as it is, it makes me less inclined to leave the building, which just leaves me frustrated.

The next morning, I woke up with a headache despite the greater comfort of the bed over a cot. Then I threw up. I had really wanted to get my property in storage. The writing client who bought me the computer thought it was stress and that it’s too early for food poisoning. I stayed in bed most of the day and threw up two more times. I had thought it was #2 several times, and Peter scuffs up the toilet seat, so I ran through quite a lot of the 325-sheet White Swan toilet paper rolls the shelter provides. $2,325.66 per person per month and they’d rather complain at me (which they did) for using up toilet paper too quickly than buy 1,000 sheet Scott rolls that can be had for far less than a dollar each when bought in bulk. The goal here seems to be privation. The staff even said that the hotel beds are going to be replaced with regulation DHS cots before long.

I was feeling better by midday Friday, and asked to get my property to take into storage. The bags had all been opened, and I grew worried, but the last thing I wanted to do was let on to the staff that I had any valuable comics in there. The most easily visible was The New Avengers #8, which certainly doesn’t cry vintage. Two of the bags were stored in the bathroom of a hotel room that is being used as an office, and one of those, although not one of the two with books, was in the bathtub. They claimed they couldn’t bring the dolly up, but helped me carry my bags to the elevator, as all of the offices are on the second floor, which is why we always have to stop there. Once I got the bags out of the elevator on the first floor, I saw an empty dolly and loaded it up.

I had looked at prices for Lyft that morning, and they had gone up a little since than, but only about two dollars. With a $5 tip that was probably be too low, and a surcharge for Manhattan driving, it cost me $71.78. That’s still less expensive than my last administrative transfer, which cost me a day of work ($77) and the rental of a second storage unit ($135.50), which, as far as I am concerned, is debt DHS owes me from their machinations since they claimed not to transfer working people, which I was at the time. We can add the $71.78 to the debt that they will never pay but that I will continue to cite as an example of their ethics issues.

The driver, Sagar, was very accommodating, lifting all my bags, and I gave him five stars. That and the fact that my leg was bothering me immensely during the trip emphasized why there is no chance I would consider a driving job. His Bollywood songs, whose titles and artists had amusing titles for English speakers like “Rambo,” “Dil De De,” and “Dilbar Dilbar” (“Rambo” has a similar repetition not reflected in the title). He wasn’t talkative like the Lyft drivers I had in Indianapolis. I mentioned why I was making the trip, and that City View Inn is a homeless shelter, so maybe he remembered that then he got the tip.

When I got to storage, I verified that all the valuable comics were there except The Spectre</ #2, which I assume is there, too. I’d just stacked things up in a way that seemed reasonably unprecarious for the time being that I didn’t check. When I left storage, I took a small bag of a few books, the stand for my beard trimmer, which I haven’t used since I lived in Jacksonville, and the shoulder strap for my briefcase on the odd chance that I can get it repaired, since only the metal is broken. Even though this was all in a Westside Market bag, it wasn’t checked for food or any sort of contraband when I signed in. It may be easier than they gave the impression to begin my comic book reading again, but I’ll be waiting it out a bit to see how thorough they are with bags, but try not to have as much as I did at the last shelter, which I did because I wanted to minimize trips to storage, which are $9.00 round trip in addition to my Metrocard.

The ride back on the bus was a relief, in part because I could stretch out my leg in ways that I could not do in the car. I had to go to the ATM to do this, since I had less cash than I thought I did. A trip back to New York is $4.50. I’ve never paid with cash before. I always bought two tickets at Port Authority, so using cash on a bus was a bit stressful until I got on and they accepted bills (which New York City Transit does not–coins and Metrocards only).

So now I’m reasonably settled in the new shelter. Even though it’s a hotel, it seems like they are doing their best to make sure that we don’t get too comfortable, the Republican ideal of incentivizing people for what is not there. Do they seriously think with homelessness increasing among the working poor that anyone living in one of these places, working or not, can afford housing in the area? Why has even a modicum of comfort become a luxury, to the point that the shelter wants to replace hotel beds with wiry cots that seemed designed to aggravate people’s back problems? I will continue to report on further developments.

9 Comments
  1. Poor Scott…. time to call Abigail Disney and demand a movie, a biopic for you…. So much suffering… really gotta get a room or apt…. you can do it… now with your computer you can work for anybody anywhere.

    • The only thing that would do for me is drain my finances.

      This shelter is too far away from the shelter for someone with an ambulatory disability. The nearest bus comes twice an hour, the next nearest, once an hour, and the third nearest, which has a reasonable schedule, is a good ten minutes away, and goes parallel to the train until they meet in Court Square.

      • That’s life…gotta fight….to not fight means to surrender..and all that means in real life

  2. I love the “The Wolves of Willoughby Chase”! Sorry to hear that you’re life is resembling it though. 😦

    • Green is a surname on my family tree. At least that book has a happy ending. I was expecting it to be like so many other children’s books in which the protagonist really is an orphan.

  3. your life is difficult… but can you sell these yarns?? Maybe if you add a few phone pictures…. Quite compelling, though you could use an editor…. Or soon to be a docu-drama…. hopefully not post-mortem….

  4. sorry for word choice… I mean ….”posthumous”

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