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DSS Loves Retaliation

June 10, 2018

It used to be that Friday was the best day to go to the Human Resources Administration of the Department of Social Services (HRA/DSS) because of reduced wait times. I have realized that Friday has become a bad day, or is at the Waverly location, but am concerned that no other days have gotten better. As it was, when I went on June 8, things seemed to be going well, as I was called almost immediately, but the imbecilic automated reception sent me to the food stamp office on the fourth floor, which was the wrong place. I was then given paperwork and a ticket to go to the second floor, then after another ten minutes, a ticket and paperwork to go to the third floor, which is where I was expecting to go to begin with.

After three hours of the typical HRA nonsense (a worker comes out calls someone who is not there, then goes back inside without calling anyone else, another worker comes out and calls for tickets with headings no one has—the only exception comes when they take attendance of ticket numbers who have held out after 6 PM (doors close at 5), which just misleads people into thinking that they are finally being called), during which one cannot eat, and going to the bathroom is a good way to lose ones place, since they like to call the numbers wildly out of order (they apparently assign each case to a particular caseworker early on rather than as caseworkers finish with a client going to the next one in order), I was finally called.

I had two goals here: let HRA I know that DHS had transferred me to another shelter (since even though these are both DSS agencies, one never knows what the other is doing because the system is radically inefficient) and to determine why my case had not become active. Shortly before the transfer, I was given a notice stating that my case was still pending on grounds that I needed to provide “proof of immigration status,” a ludicrous demand considering they have scanned my birth certificate umpteen times, most recently in late April 2018, and it clearly states that I was born in “Marion County, Indiana” (why it doesn’t say “Indianapolis” I do not know—I was born in 1976, and the location where I was born was annexed under the Unigov system in 1970), and that my father was born in Massachusetts and my mother in New Jersey. The worker insisted on treating my application as a new case and would not tell me why. She noticed the damage to my wrist from the briefcase my coworker, Tricia Hinds, gave me when she was sick of me seeing the now-discontinued Queens Library plastic bags around, which has been ripping apart under the weight of my laptop and asked what it was. I don’t know if she was showing concern or building a case against me in her mind. The worker attempted to schedule an eligibility verification review (EVR) appointment on June 15. This is when things got difficult. I explained that I had just gone in April and that I still did not have an explanation why I had to go again. She told me that my case was close. When I asked why, the only answer that she would give me was that I was found in eligible. When she refused to give me a straight answer, I started to get loud. She called over security, and I explained to them that the problem was that I was not getting a straight answer, at which point I pulled out my birth certificate and explained the situation. She insisted that she was about to explain it to me, but that was clearly just an attempt to save face in front of the security staff, which included an HRA cop named Backus, who looks like a Hispanic Tor Johnson with a build more suggestive of steroid use than anything else, and numerous FJC security guards. The worker said she refused to work with me, and I was told that I had to leave. I said that I refused to leave unless I got a valid explanation why my case was closed. At that point, a white-shirted FJC security guard told me that the valid explanation was for me to get out of the chair and leave the building. I can’t quote it exactly, but it was that level of a non sequitur. They threatened me with arrest as I collected up my IDs and shelter residency letter so that I actually could leave, and, as detailed on this blog, the one arrest of my life was also by an HRA cop when I raised my voice at a worker’s unreasonable and unprofessional behavior, and did not want it to happen again, even though a government office is public property and any arrest for yelling is unconstitutional. I yelled as I left, the occasional obscenity, but mostly accusing them of theft, fraud, criminality in general, fascism, and that I am in physical pain because of them (as my gout pain is on the increase from my lack of medication and other pains from being turned away from physical therapy for lack of an active Medicaid case—both choices made by HRA). Backus and the security staff followed me into the elevator, and once the door was closed, the white-shirted FJC security guard threated to rough me up if I didn’t stop yelling in his face. I told him that he’s a security guard and not a cop and could go to prison for assault if he did. At this point, Backus, who is at least a head shorter than me but looks like the bruiser for which the worker seemed to be mistaking me, said, “No he won’t, he’s one of my men, and he has my permission to do it, and if you don’t like it, you can take it up with 311.” This is clearly a threat of a criminal nature, but as it is my word against his, and he had at least five men with him, it’s not something I would attempt to challenge in court, so I shut up until I was out of the building, but that just worked against me, because it made me looked crazed to those who did not see what happened before.

Now I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that there is retaliation going on for my participation in “The Business of Homelessness” research paper, which is patently illegal and unconstitutional, and it appears I will need a lawyer to restore my benefits. Without a LINC voucher, there will be no way to leave the shelter system without a major increase in hours at my current job, or being hired for a job with similar wages and longer hours, and I certainly can’t afford medical care as a part-timer, and with my storage unit costing $300 a month, I’ve had to spend $900 of my savings and counting (not counting the $100 a month to store the property Mom was storing in her house before she passed away), which sucked away my entire April paycheck. At present, I am concerned that I may not get my broken phone replaced because Assurance Wireless phones are dependent on eligibility for public benefits. I doubt a lawyer could make them put that $900 and counting toward my storage to make up what I have had to pay out of pocket and should not have had to, since I am clearly being singled out to not get this benefit, which is standard for people who live in the shelter system. I have been criticized for seeing this as something owed to me, but if I’m being singled out to not receive something for which I, as a shelter resident of extremely low income, and eminently eligible but am being singled out, how is it not something owed to me? I’ve already inquired with a benefits lawyer who said that a one-time bequest as low as what I got when Mom passed would not affect my eligibility. It’s only twice what I got when Dad passed, and that was what staved off my homelessness between 2008 and 2012 when I got few interviews or hires (and those were for part-time work, as I have now), and with rents being what they currently are, would probably last me only about as long before I become homeless with no future reprieves of this nature ever again (and people wonder why I’d rather have Mom alive rather than the money), even if I left New York City, since the odds of me getting a job somewhere else, given what I can and can’t do, seem unlikely. My boss suggested a town in Mexico with which she is familiar, but not only can I not wrap my head around that now (it’s pretty far down on places I’ve had an urge to visit, and I studied French, not Spanish), it would still cost more per month that I have been able to get working for her.

With a new policy as of March 2018 that a room renting for up to $800 would cost me $50 a month, I am no longer against renting a room with a LINC voucher (the previous policy was that either a room or an apartment was 1/3 of a client’s income, but I guess they figured out that I’m not even close to the only one with an apartment’s worth of storage not willing to spend so much for so little at a cost of 90% of one’s worldly goods—now only the apartment is 1/3 of one’s income), but with HRA refusing me this voucher on false pretenses, they are criminal scroyles trying to perpetuate my homelessness. If anything happens to me as a direct result of being deprived of my blood pressure medication, that ups my charge against HRA to attempted murder, assuming I live.

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