Prose & Poetry, Vocal Booth

The Sheltered Existence Part 1

May 23, 2011, I checked out of my apartment, and checked into the psych ward at the Allen Hospital in NYC.(Actually, I checked myself into the Psych Ward at NY-Presbyterian first, then went to Allen.) I was there for three weeks total. 3 days in observation, where all I did was sleep as, there was nothing else to do, and two weeks in the Psych ward itself. The diagnosis? Major Depression.

The men and women I resided with for that two week period were pretty cool people. Seemed the most were “emo” cutters. one or two who were delusional, and a few like me, who were there because we held thoughts of doing ourselves in.

Sadly, there was one patient who really should have been in a nursing home.

After my two week “vacay”, I was released with my meds, into the custody of a friend. from there, since there wasn’t enough space to keep me and my suitcase, I went to the Assessment Shelter.

From There With The Grace of God

What follows, is my journal to date.

June 3, 2011 

I arrived at the shelter in the morning, to be told I had to relocate my laptop and camera. So, I walked back to the train, and headed back into Manhattan and to my friend. Dropped my stuff off, and began the sojourn back. I arrived back at 4:45 pm. 5 hours later, I am still waiting for intake. FINALLY, at 10:00 pm, I was handed the paperwork with an apology. Didn’t eat, as I wasn’t a resident, yet. So, dinner that night was a bag of kettle corn and a Snickers™ bar. While waiting to be given the paper work, a resident went into an asthma attack. Asked at the desk to call 911, which they said they already had. Asked if I could stay with her, was told “no.”

I am now “E14” and must carry my “identity papers” a/k/a Meal Ticket with me and show when I eat, sign for my bed, do laundry or at anytime when asked.  Welcome to “We Control Your Life” Curfew is 9:45, since bed check is 10:00pm. Lights out at 11:00 pm. 6:00 am wake up call. we get 00:30 to shower poop and dress. Remember to lock your locker, as once 7:30 am rolls around, you’re locked out of the dorm til 5:00 pm. Did I mention Breakfast is 6:30 – 7:30? Meals in the cafeteria are an adventure. Will someone get all cranky pants and accuse another of stealing their cup of what passes for juice? Will the Homeless Police have to intervene? Will an audience?

The shelter itself is a converted school, in an isolated area of Brooklyn, an industrial area, that closes up shop at 4:00pm, and definitely makes you not desirous of being out after dark. Curfews, bed/bag checks. Still beats sleeping on a train.

June 5, 2011

My friend, E is aghast that I described the area the shelter is in as a “ghetto”. It is. No services, amenities closer than 4 blocks away in a single direction, Did I mention we’re actually cut off from the rest of the area because it’s in a freaking industrial park? I did? Sorry. Just because we live in a shelter, is no reason that those of us who work (or anyone else there) can’t have a decent meal (food is awful and non-nutritious).  We can’t shop for toiletries without having to ride the bus or a subway 30 minutes just to get to a business district. Just because I’m homeless, don’t think I don’t work and pay taxes.

See, I live in NYC, and I am living within my means. I don’t make enough even for a share.

June 6 

It’s all hurry up and wait. Breakfast ends at 7:30, and the caseworkers don’t arrive til 9:00, which gives us an hour and a half to twiddle our thumbs. At about 8:30, The Binder appears, and we sign up for a slot with the caseworker. Then, we sit some more. The staff for the most part is courteous and respectful. A few of the staff treat us like we’re leeching of them. Some of my fellow shelter peeps? Not exactly the “give respect to get respect” types. The collection is an interesting mix of working homeless, transgender, mentally ill and castaways. Some of the women are gay, and dress like little “gangstas”. A couple of women were tripping on the Trans’ presence, but if you’re male and identify as trans, they can’t turn you away. And, there are women on parole and probation there. So, we tend to get treated like petit criminals. Bags are searched and we walk through a metal detector upon entry. With good reason.

One dorm mate is loudly, proudly schizo-affective and fully functional, yet lives off mine and the rest of the taxpayer dime. Another went to the hospital earlier.

June 7 

Breakfast was two “cheese omelets” just this side of edible. Might be powdered eggs or “egg beaters” and  bread. Thin coffee (think water with a brownish tinge). Most of what is served ends up in the trash. Should be grateful for all the daily bread we are served. (up to 6 slices/day). Talked to my hospitalized dormie. She told me she had miscarried.

Schizo-affective has been transferred out of the shelter.  The girl who miscarried has been transferred to another shelter that can better serve her.

June 8

Found out from the girl who had the asthma attack,  it took 40 minutes for the EMT’s to show up, and there wasn’t any paperwork done by the shelter about it. Last night, I completed all the intake shit. Now the wait for the transfer to transitional housing. Am eagerly awaiting the step up from this one step above incarceration. The general opinion of those of us who aren’t on parole/probation, is that this is like being in jail.

The Shelter: it’s a converted school in an industrial area of Brooklyn. Yeah, I said that in another entry. Oh, well. anyway, some of the girls work just down the block going down.

continued