Posts Tagged gift card

The myth of gift cards

Christmas 2011 the shelter asked gift cards to be donated to the clients. There was a wish tree with angels and the angels had a number corresponding to a specific client. Visitors to “The Keep” would take these angels and return gift cards, reassured the person whose number was on the angel would get the gift card. However, it was not permitted to hand these cards directly to the clients, they had to be turned in to the executive director. “We are trying to keep it fair for everyone and will hand out the cards on the 23rd” was the official explanation.

Now the executive director went and bought $5 cards, handed those and a few of the donated cards to the clients and kept many $20, $25, $50 and even $100 cards in his office, not inventoried, “for later use”, gave some to vendors and was contemplating to give some to his children when they came to the shelter “to do some good work”.

These gift cards were designated for specific people, and not to supplement the shelter’s budget or be given to vendors.

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Human Rights

In 1948 the United States signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states under Article 25:

“(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.”

Housing as a human right has been reaffirmed in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which the United States also signed in 1966.

Has anyone taken inventory lately?

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“Merchandising”

Visitors permitted into the shelter only saw and heard what the “Trident” had carefully orchestrated, some homeless people were “asked” to leave for a few hours out of fear they would cause problems, or simply because they did not “look” the part, and others were instructed on what to do and say, even had to change clothe so it would look like in-kind donations were used appropriate. The daughter would grab some women and set them up to give the impression classes were being taught. Afterwards these women would be paid for their participation.

Should a representative of a grant foundation come to visit, homeless would be paired up with employees in order to give the impression of a functional work rehab program, women would be set up again to look like a class, and a computer room was “all of a sudden functional” to teach resume skills. Again, payment was made to encourage the homeless to participate in the perception and to encourage “desirable” behavior.

There always was and still is the implication of dire consequences should one not comply, intentionally or accidentally.

Through the years practicum students from mayor universities would come to the shelter, not so much to make a difference, but to “practice” what they have learned thus far. Not that the homeless would gain anything, but the association with that university looks very good on paper when asking foundations for money. Of course, people were carefully selected and paid by the shelter director to participate in these courses.

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Nepotism at work

“The Keep” is presided over by a board of directors that pretty much is oblivious to the plight of the homeless, so much, that the previous director was able to convince most people in the shelter that she owned the shelter and it was hers to with what she wanted. This claim was supported by the fact that her husband was second in command and her daughter third. So, imagine you had a grievance, who would you approach?

Her husband was addicted to painkillers and psych medication and when he ran out of pills he got from several doctors, he would buy from within the shelter. His wife had him on a very short leash and he never had money, so he pawned his jewelry to those who out of fear would sell him their own prescribed medication. In his ill mind paying for the pills was the right thing to do, never mind if someone refused he would give his wife a reason to bar that person, telling her that person had been to another shelter would be enough reason. She did not like it when people sought resources from other agencies in an effort to improve their circumstances.

I remember once his wife had bought him 1 ct diamond studs and within a month he had “lost” them. Of course she knew, would tell everyone in how much pain he was all the time, how sick he was and how grateful everyone should be that he still would come to work and take care of the homeless. After a while when he ran out of ways to pay for his habit, mysteriously a few people were accused of stealing, their belongings searched, jewelry found and of course they had to leave the shelter. But that did not end the cycle, he just targeted different people.

Her daughter would date homeless men from within the shelter and when the “relationship” did not “work-out” the director would run around the shelter and scream and holler how “that guy took advantage of her daughter, got caught stealing, was the devil, and you all better not betray me like that or I make sure you have to leave town”.

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Conundrum

I have reached a point where continuing most likely will expose the organization in this blog and with that may have consequences for people living there. Not that I want to gamble with their well-being, but for my own sake I have to keep on writing. Thinking about the members on the board of directors it can also have repercussions for me and my family. But if I can make a difference in just one person’s life it would be worth it, regardless of what follows. That sounds so cliché, but that is what life is all about, isn’t it, pursuing that one moment where we can step out and distinguish ourselves from the crowd.

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Setting examples I

I remember several years ago the then executive director instructing the special assistant to falsify a drug test, which by the way were always targeted (never random, always aimed at a specific person) and used to intimidate and ban people. In this case the director did not approve of a black man wanting to date a white woman and decided to create circumstances that allowed expelling him from the shelter. “God marked us differently so we know and don’t mix, he wants us to stay pure”, was this directors conviction. Mentioning evolution would be answered with “well, no monkey has evolved in front of me yet”.

In another case a man was accused of having rented a storage unit to store things he supposedly stole from the shelter. There was no evidence, no witness to this accusation…  the whole story was conceived and carefully coordinated in the directors office to expel the man and tell him if he complained a report would be filed with the police “and who do you think they will believe? A homeless guy or me?”. This poor man had “dared” on several occasions to point out unfair and unjust treatment of several homeless people and no one questioned the director, ever.

Then there were several people, one man and one woman in particular, who could get away with just about anything. Nothing was done when they came in high on drugs, drunk, they could take whatever they wanted from donations, eat whenever they wanted, come and go as they saw fit – simply because they would inform the director of everything that was said and done within the general  shelter population. On a weekly basis these people would be paid with money allocated for people who worked odd jobs around the shelter – money that was donated in good faith by a person, a business, a church, a foundation.

….. to be continued

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