Posts Tagged shelter

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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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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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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Homeless people are needed

Homeless people are “homeless”, not coatless or sandwichless!  Sure, they do need temporarily help with clothing and food, but beyond that I have not seen one donor coming back “hey, I got a place for you to stay”. Why is that?

Those in need and those wanting to help have entered into a symbiotic relationship. On one side the needy have their short-term need answered by receiving a free coat and a sandwich and on the other the person providing the coat and sandwich feels good about handing out donations.

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Why nobody speaks out

Homeless  people are well aware that their well-being and safety depend on other people and contrary to common believe, most are  not “looking” for free handouts, but for a little help in getting back on their feet. Being aware that your fate is at the mercy of another person, having observed people being put down and thrown out of a shelter for no reason at all, you learn fast not to bring attention to yourself. After all, the only place you can go after being expelled from a shelter is the street. And you heard stories about life on the street. You also know that once you are put out by one shelter, you are going to be labeled a trouble maker by the next, word travels fast within the homeless community and rumors travel even faster.

Lets say Mrs. A has been banned by shelter 1 because she dared to ask for an umbrella while having to leave the shelter on a rainy morning because the shelter closes its doors at 6 a.m. every day until intake later in the afternoon. Mrs. A was told there are no umbrellas so she asked for a garbage bag. “We have no money to give you all garbage bags for free, this is a homeless shelter. Do you know what is costs to keep the lights on and the TV running all day? Don’t you enjoy your shower every day? Do you have any idea how hard I work to make sure you are loved and eat every day? Isn’t that enough for you? Now you want a garbage bag, you ungrateful woman! Why don’t you try to get one from shelter 2 and see how they treat you. Don’t you ever come back here!”

Everyone standing around and witnessing the event would not dare to tell the truth, everyone would agree Mrs. A had it coming and deserved to be barred. Self-preservation – because you never know who would hear what you say and whom they would tell. By the time Mrs. A got to shelter 2 or shelter 3 the news of her “ungrateful attack” on the director of shelter 1 was common knowledge.

Of course, this event never took place, the director was never at the shelter before 9 a.m., long after the homeless had left for the day, but the elements used are not fictional at all.

When you are desperate the lines between wrong and right easily become fuzzy and you are willing to do whatever it takes to survive.

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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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