My Nonprofit Reviews
Review for Project Renewal, Inc., New York, NY, USA
I was transferred to Project Renewal's Third Street Shelter just before Thanksgiving 2012 and currently reside there. In my first month there, I got food poisoning eight times. I have tried to avoid the food ever since, but I still got food poisoning two additional times. As someone general population (physically challenged (SSD rightfully says that I can work a desk job, but there are far more seekers of these jobs than there are openings), but educated, substance-free, and mentally sound), they admitted to me that my best bet for getting out of the shelter was to find a job. To this end, they sent me to their next step program on Varick Street, where I was to work with job developer Rome Birkett. His idea of job development was Google searches for "administrative assistant," from which he would print the results and have me apply on my own, as though I were too stupid to do that myself, when I've been online regularly since 1996, earned a BA in 1999, and an MA in 2005. As of this writing, I have applied to 1,862 jobs since the month before I became homeless, tracked in an Excel spreadsheet I have on a flash drive, and been granted nineteen interviews, six of which were for staffing services that have not placed me, six of which were either bad matches (one gave preferential treatment to Hebrew speakers, another was a retail job for which I would need accommodations, but even though I didn't tell them that, the interviewer said that my history of office work rather than retail was reason enough not to select me) or outright scams, and two of which were short-term freelance jobs, one of which was piece work paying less than minimum wage. Everyone says the best way to get a job is through networking, although it is also the slowest, and most events I have found that are designed for networking begin at 9 PM, and shelter curfew is 10.
The shelter itself is filthy and dormitory style, unlike my previous two shelters, which had rooms. I got impetigo from my pillow in the first month, and still have scars to prove it. The lack of cleanliness is part and parcel of their policies--linen exchange is Wednesday evening, and there's always an excuse that they are out of something, be it towel, or sheet, or pillowcase. At my last shelter, we brought our sheets down Wednesday morning and got new sheets at night, but since they have us do all the sheets at night, they don't have enough to go around. The heat is sweltering over the summer with only one tiny fan per section to cool the area, so one often goes weeks sleeping in old sweat because linen exchange has been denied to them. At other shelters, we are allowed to do our own laundry in machines in the building. At Project Renewal, they have someone do it for us, and many of my compatriots have complained about the horrible job they have done. Worse yet, they have a ten garment per week maximum. Even though they count a pair of socks as one garment, to have a clean set of underclothing each week is 21 garments alone. Thus, I use my own money to use the laundromat down the street. Project Renewal violates the spirit, if not the letter, of Department of Homeless Services rules via this policy. It seems like a concerted effort to convert homeless people into smelly bums so that the rest of society has someone upon whom to look down. This is emphasized by the fact that sometimes they will refuse to change your sheets even when they have them available. Since linen exchange is from 9 PM to 10 PM, if you arrive back at the shelter at, say, 9:45, they will tell you to go up to your bed for the count first, then when you come back down after the count, they'll say since it's after 10, you're too late. The one who does this most often is Randy, the supervisor, whom most of the clients have come to despise.
Even though shelters make $3,500 per client per month (or $117 a day, about $20,000 a day since this shelter houses 170 residents), they refuse to fix the boiler and have been using a temporary truck boiler from prior my arrival to the present day (9/11/13). Only one shower room in the place has a temperature adjustment knob, and going to it if it's not on your floor can get you chastised, while the other rooms typically offer water that is either freezing or scalding. You can't plug anything in, such as a cell phone charger or alarm clock, but they expect you up at 6 AM, woken only by the lights being turned on, and ready to leave the building at 6:30, when they serve breakfast, which they demand you be in your street clothes to take. Starting tomorrow, we will not be allowed back upstairs after 7:30, which is normally the time I use to shave, go to the bathroom, and do my hair and teeth, because those don't really need to be done prior to eating, like showering and dressing.
A month back, they claimed that the Department of Homeless Services has a new policy so that if you arrive one minute after curfew, you are officially a missed curfew, and they have to call DHS in order to rebed you. Previously, if you were in before 10:30, you simply had to wait to sign. As a member of Picture the Homeless, I learned that this is not really a DHS policy, but simply a method to harangue and create stress in those who leave the shelter for job search while privileging the lazy people who spend all day in the rec room. When HRA (Human Resources Administration, also known as welfare) refused to pay for my storage because I receive unemployment, the shelter director, Shannon Potts, sent me there to collect a letter stating as such so that the storage expense could be calculated into the mandatory savings plan. When I was refused repeatedly, I started raising my voice and was arrested with a summons for disorderly conduct. If she were competent, she would have known that this is not the way one obtains these things. I managed to get such a letter only through one of my contacts on the staff at Picture the Homeless. Either that, or she knew exactly what would happen to me and was hoping that I would miss curfew so that they could cut my lock and take the contents of my locker, which include quite a few old comic books. I have detailed extensively the shenanigans that Project Renewal plays on my WordPress blog.
Because they give me a place to sleep at night, albeit on a cot that exacerabtes the back problem that makes me unable to take a non-desk job as a stopgap, and a place to change my clothes, and sometimes to shower, if there is water of an appropriate temperature available, I can't say the place gives me no help at all, but it would be unreasonable to claim that the help that they provide is worth anywhere close the $117 a day that they receive from the taxpayer. Project Renewal is a shining example of why money needs to be diverted from the shelter system to fund the creation of community land trusts.
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
Completely overhaul it, fire all the current staff and put competent people in their places, subject them to severe inspections by the Department of Health, build walls, fix the showers to make them all adjustable, put in air conditioners for more than just the staff.
How would you describe the help you got from this organization?
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