Posts Tagged human-rights

Women and children kicked to the curb

Last week school started back up here in Dallas. Four women with children resided at “The Keep” at that time. On Monday morning the director of client services came in around 9 am and found out that these women didn’t have their children ready when the school bus came to pick them up. Needless to say, the children did not attend school that day.

The director of client services then had these four women, their children and their belongings loaded into the shelter van, a van that had been donated to the shelter to transport clients to and from work, doctors appointment and other constructive activities, and had them dumped in front of another shelter, thrown out on the street despite one of the desk supervisors at “The Keep” confirming via a phone call that the other shelter had no room for four women and their children. The driver was instructed by the director of client services “just leave them there and come back”.

Now here is where I am confused. If I were the director of client services and I made it my business to make sure the children get to school, would I not inform the mothers of when the children needed to be ready for the bus? Would I not be at the shelter at 7 am on the first day of school to make sure the moms had all the support they needed? And would I not call CPS if I thought the moms were neglecting their duty?

How were the children being helped, did the action of the director of services make a difference? They still did not get to school that day and not knowing where the children ended up, maybe back with their abusive father, I can’t say if they made it to school at all yet.

No one can convince me that four women conspired not to have their children ready that day! Somehow, and since I know the director of client services, I know someone didn’t do their job.

How can one provide services to the homeless when the shelter discharges people at 6 am in the morning until 1:30 pm, and the director of client services works from 9 am until 4 or 5 pm with an hour lunch in between?

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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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Work Program

According to the DOL, an employee is in a learning position if she/he receives training similar to that which would be received in a vocational school. The employer cannot receive immediate benefit from the employee’s training and her/his presence cannot displace regular employees. She/he is under the watchful eye of a regular employee or trainer. In addition, the employee and the employer both understand the terms of the arrangement and the employee understands she/he is not entitled to wages for her time in training. Her/his training may lead to a job, but it does not necessarily have to lead to a guaranteed position.

“The Keep” has the homeless do everything, from checking the homeless in, cleaning, cooking, sorting donations, to office work and more for a stipend of $80 or $100 every two weeks. There is no training!  The shelter definitely benefits as they don’t have to hire employees to fill these positions. These work program participants are considered staff and most believe they are employed by “The Keep”, even request employment verification forms to be filled out at times,  only  to learn then that they are and never have been employees.

The work program is an abstract concept on paper to solicit foundation money and to avoid paying wages.

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Take it in the teeth

Here is a public statement from the current executive director of  “The Keep”.

 “The biggest public perception is that these people are lazy and don’t want to work. With mental illness, somebody has to look after them with more compassion, more nurturing and more love.”

The following is a handout from “The Keep’s” executive staff to clients, expressing  “more compassion, more nurturing and more love”.  Since this communication is public domain, I see no need to remove the name of the organization.

To ALL Austin Street Clients:

“A letter full of lies, and unsigned, was sent to the State of Texas Parole Board and our Board of Directors about supposed terrible things being done at our shelter. I know this was not done by one person alone. Whoever wrote it had help. I don’t care who did it now. 

But I have said enough times, you will all take it in the teeth when someone does destructive things. I suggest you talk to the person that did it and tell them thanks for making your lives a little harder. 

No one is told they have to stay with us. Go somewhere else if you don’t like it. 

Start acting like adults and stand up for what you think is right. Men and women of character do this. Otherwise, complaining as no purpose. And people with guts don’t hide. Kids do. 

You are all adults; start acting like it. No one owes you anything. This shelter exists to help and care for you better than any other. Is this how to say thanks? 

No childlike behavior will be tolerated at all to any degree. Acting like adults is one part of moving forward.”

The executive director then “punished” all clients by not permitting admission to the shelter until 5 p.m. and left town. Upon his return the following Monday the “ban” was lifted.

“The Keep”  makes public promises to solicit money and I do believe it owes what it promises since supporters contributions are based upon those promises made.

And if the executive staff of  “The Keep” expects “Thank you”, they have no place working at “The Keep”. Nothing they do is a contribution, they get paid for their time and work, everything else comes from donors who deserve thanks and gratitude. And what does it say about a person’s character expecting “thank you” working in this field anyway? Is that a solid Christian way of thinking?

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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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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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