A guest entry by Tiffany Lange on her experience going through the shelter application process.
For almost all of today, Ethan and I were at PATH. PATH stands for "Prevention Assistance Transitional Housing"...which is run by the Department of Homeless services of New York. We were there because ever since we have been in the place we are in now, we have been in an "investigative" period, where the "workers" from DHS, basically investigate to find out whether or not you qualify for Housing in New York. One of their ways of doing this is by ruling out other options for housing that you might have. When you initially apply you have to give them a 2 year history of where you have lived, accompanied by phone numbers and various documents to back up your claims. This then allows them to verify your story by using the documents and by calling those whom you "claim" to have lived with.
We "moved in" to our place on November 1st, and have been here since. I was told about 8 days after we moved in that we would hear something in the next 3-4 days about whether we had or had not been found eligible. The way they work, is that they will tell you NOTHING if you are eligible, and if you are not, they will politely leave something under your door telling you otherwise. Since this is the 21st of the month, I was pretty sure that we were good. I had not heard anything so I assumed that we were eligible.
That was until we got home last night.
There was a piece of paper awaiting me as I walked in the door last night. The paper informed me that my son and I had been found ineligible and needed to return to PATH that same day the paper was dropped off, before 4:35pm to discuss the reason. If we did not return, then our supposed "silence" would be interrupted as agreement with the choice. Well...obviously I was working and did not get home till like 1am, so imagine my GREAT concern when I saw this notice. When I turned the page to see what the reason was for our ineligibility, it said that it was because I was unable to provide an accurate 2 year history of where we had lived previously. UMMMMMM.........NOOOOO.
I had provided an accurate history, and had provided phone numbers. I tried to go to sleep, telling myself I would just go down to PATH the following morning and figure this all out. I was sure that it would take just a few hours and some unfun talks, but we would work it all out.
This morning I got up, got Ethan dressed, and we headed to PATH. Upon arriving there, I was informed that because I "missed" our meeting time yesterday (didn't matter that I was working), I was going to have go through the whole process from start to finish ALL over again. I called into my work, and settled in with Ethan for what I knew was going to be a long day.
While I was in the waiting room with my son, I met a lot of people, and we all exchanged stories about our experiences with PATH and DHS. To hear what some of them had to say was DISTURBING to say the least. The amount of inhumane treatment that was shared in these stories was unprecedented. To look around at the kids in the room, and to think that it was not only the parents that were being mistreated, but the children by the system as well.....was well....heartbreaking and irritating. The "clients" in the system are treated like prisoners in a way....and are not allotted any sense of self-dignity or respect. To treat people like this in a city where rent control when out the window a LONG time ago, and section 8 is literally SPLITTING families in two, and then to punish individuals by treating them like garbage for having no where to stay....well....it's freakin backwards folks.
When I finally did get to my "worker", she informed me that the reason that she put the note under my door, was because there was one person they had not been able to contact, and because of just that one person out of like 5, they had to re-do everything. ALL OF THIS FOR ONE QUESTION! A whole day, to ASK ME ONE THING. A lost night of sleep, fear of being ejected.
They couldn't have called? Or left a note with my social worker that works right downstairs from where I live? No. Of course not. They want to scare you and make you go crazy.
My question is, when did we say it was okay to treat others like this? When did we write it into our laws and bureaucratic agencies? Where along the line did we start to give permission for this? To tell people to sleep in bathtubs? To split families in two and then punish them for following that rule???? When did we lose our minds????
It can be fixed....with enough loud voices and with the right people knowing the truth.
For as advanced as we are today, it only takes a slight perfect storm of events for an individual to suddenly not have a place to live. And with our current economy, it's happening MUCH MORE frequently.
This is a battle I want to fight....RIGHT NOW. And it's a battle I believe we can win. As long as our voice is loud enough. I believe it can be.
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