The shelter isn’t that big. Its one story big with 200 beds. Its located in the south Bronx on Jerome ave and 176th street. The 4 train in over head so at night you can hear the train coming and going, its all day long. Theres a Cafeteria, 2 bathrooms with 6 stalls in each, 6 showers in each bathroom, and 4 sinks. Theres maintenance who comes around to clean the bathrooms all day, mop the floors and take out the garbage.
Theres a free clinic with in the walls of Susans place and its recommended by the case managers to use the facility instead of traveling to the doctors on any given day. Its a way to save money so your not pouring your ssi into transportation.
Theres a social services office where the receptionist, Craig sits and mandates the office for the clients to see their case managers once a week. Craig hands out the mail or packages that get sent to the shelter. So you can order or do your online shopping for clothes or what ever your getting, as long as it fits in your locker. Theres also a laundry room with 4 washing machines and 4 dryers and a schedual for selected dorms for selected days to do laundry. Theres always someone in attendece in the laundry room which is open every 45 minutes. sometimes you can do your laundry on a non selected day, you just have to ask, or put your name on the waiting list. Thats the only way your going back in your dorm is if your doing laundry. You can go in and get your laundry and then also when its done put your laundry on your bed which is usually packed in clear oversized plastic bags or a laundry bag if you have one.
From 9am to 5pm you have to be out of the dorms, unless you have a bed pass. A bed pass is for people who have acute problems sleeping and are able to get a bed pass from the clinics physicians. People on bed pass have to be out of the dorm by 11am. But getting a bed pass you have to have it documented that you have problems sleeping or have disability hat requires you to sleep longer then every one else.
Lights are out at 10pm, and come back on at 6:00 or 6:30am Im not sure because Im asleep until 7:30 most mornings. Theres a living room which opens at 7am. Theres stationary bikes and a work out room. When I first got there, there was a smoke room located in the living room, but DHS closed it. Theres also a activities coordinator office which is located in the living room, which is ran by Mecca. Mecca shares her office with Ms. smith who is the van request coordinator, she knows the ins and outs about SSA an HRA and will get you to HRA, We care, and BEV but you have to get yourself back. Now she has an assistant so the van now brings us back from HRA. Social security the van brings you back regardless because its just for award letters or to get a replacement social security card.
Theres the bubble, and office with a window. They keep maxi pads, tooth brushes, soap, and razors in there all you have to do is ask for it. Theres also a pharmacy for people on medication. They have an outside vendor who delivers pharmasuticals requested by the clinic for clients that go to the free clinic.
Theres a waiting area, which most mornings by 8am is full because when you have a van request you have to wait in the waiting area for Ms. smith to come get you. The staff is pretty good about knowing everybody’s face and name. Ms. smith comes in at 8am every morning but is never ready until about 9:30ish. And yo have to sit and wait for the van to arrive with the driver. Some woman just sit in the waiting area talking to one another.
Theres the directors office who maintains Susans place which is located in the waiting area. He’s takes care of Callahan, which every 6 months its a big to do. The morning starts at 5am.
Then there’s AWOL. AWOL is across the way from the waiting area. Its another waiting area for when woman break curfew and come back and have to wait for another bed to be free. You have to sit there until a head count is done and they can give you a bed. You have 24 hours to be back when you break curfew or they pack up your belongings and put it in storage. Most woman who break curfew are back the next day but are AWOLED because they missed bed check.
Bed check is usually done around 9:30 when the PA comes around their designated dorms and we have to sign for our beds. You can’t be on the phone by 10pm when lights are out. All gadgets have to be put away, and the dorm has to be quiet.
Every 6 months there’s an inspection done called Callahan. Its where you have to strip your bed of sheets pillows and blankets and lock everything away. You can’t have your extension cord plug in that used to charge your phone and tablets or laptops. When its Callahan the living room is closed and all there is is the cafeteria where the activities coordinator puts together games like bingo or card games. You can join in or sit at one of the empty tables and entertain yourself. Most of the time woman have their phone and tablet or are outside smoking weed and sitting in the little park down the block. When Callahan is over that night DHS head quarters comes to do an inspection to make sure everyone is in their dorm and in their bed. They check every dorm.
DHS mandates the medal detectors. And possibly the security which is allied universal security company. Theres two security desks one that signs for packages and the other just mandate the hallway to make sure everything is ok.
I have witnessed some fighting in the shelter. Usually its fights about who’s talking about who and DHS or security has to break it up. Theres a DHS office located adjacent from the medal detectors. And vending machines in the cafeteria. Theres no eating in the dorm rooms. The only thing you can have is water. Theres an ice machine and a two water fountains. One water fountain is in the hall way the other is with the ice machine in the cafeteria.
Your not allowed to have more then 3 pairs of shoes under your bed and no more then 4 stuff animals on your bed. Your not allowed to carry a lighter. Most woman who smoke put their lighter in their bra, like I do because theirs never any lighters with security when you want to go outside and smoke a cigarette. You can’t bring in glass bottles either. Its strictly prohibited. But for the most part the woman get along.
Most of the woman at Susans place are Spanish and in their 50s getting ssi or some type of retirement, or something left behind by a dead husband. A lot of the woman are married but put themselves in a shelter to get their own apartment which makes no sense to me, because a lot of the womens husbands comes to visit with them. A lot of what these woman do make no sense to me.
The shelter is also a domestic violence shelter called DV shelter. On the weekends you can stay in the dorm. Since getting a phone and tablet I stay in the dorm on the weekends and watch Netflix and find people to talk to on social media. I binged and watched all of orange is the new black. I take breaks with Ruby and smoke a cigarette, and then come back to finish watching my shows. My dorm mate is Norma she’s some type of Spanish and she has her whole set up. From laptop to two phones, even a camera. I don’t know what she does during the day but she’s nice.
Ive watched a lot of woman get packed up in my dorm, for one reason or another and leave the shelter to stay with someone. Those woman where working civilians. The shelter life isn’t for everybody. Its not for me either but what can I do. Im just now starting to get used to it.
Our last Callahan was cancelled due to coronavirus. So Im pretty sure when we are back in the shelter We are going to have a Callahan, and Ill be ready with my laptop, tablet, and phone.
Last summer was the beginning of a new trend at the shelter with beach chairs. The woman where buying fold up beach chairs so they could sit outside the shelter and smoke cigarettes and talk all day. Theres a liquor store about 2 blocks away from the shelter where woman buy nips and beer from the bodega across the street from the liquor store.
You would be surprised at the amount of woman who smoke cigarettes in the shelter. By the time I get outside at 8am most of the woman are outside smoking with a cup of coffee in their hands. And they hate beggars. No one gives out cigarettes. So when I first became a client of Susans place I was picking up buds off the ground and smoking them. Some times a woman would give me a loosey, but it took a while for me to get my welfare.
It took about about a month. Ms. smith took me to 300 canal place and I was still in the system, so they opened my welfare case without my birth certificate and social security number. Then I had to go to social security to get a copy of my social security card and have it sent to Susans place. Thats when I needed a residencey letter from my case manager. Then by train Ms. smith took me to the birth certificate office down on worth street in Manhattan. We took to the 4 train. My social security number and birth certificate where done all in one day. From the social security office we took the bus back to the shelter. I got my birth certificate that day. The shelter paid for it by money order.
To open my public assistance case we took the van to 300 canal place. We waited all day to be seen. And thats whenI found out about We care, on the print out of the appointment time that was given to me for We care. “please be aware that you could be with us up to 4 hours” And that was prove I was disabled. So I had to get a recipet for we care and BEV and bring back to welfare so it could be scanned into the system. Ms. smith has been working for Susans place for 10 years the shelter has been open for 11 years. so she pretty much knows everybody at social security offices and HRA, so instead of you going to HRA and waiting online you can wait in the waiting area while she skips the line to the receptionist and reads off social security numbers so we are given a ticket with a call number on it and u to the second floor after.
Then after about a 45 minute wait for your number to be called you have to see another receptionist on the second floor. She’s intake. Then its u to the 4th floor to be seen my case manager to open you case with pubic assistance. “How are you maintaining yourself” You usually say by public assistance, when its your recertification. When I opened my case They asked me if I was working or willing to get a job, I told them Im disabled and they gave me an appointment for we care.
To open a public assistance case it takes about 45 days. In 45 days I was able to get an Obama phone given to me by Victoria. I applied for a safe link SIM card and switched numbers because her assurance wireless phone number got disconnected.
We care where my advocates for SSI. I had filled out the SSI application at we care the next day with a woman named Agatha. So instead of having a phone interview on Ms. smiths phone which we still waited for the phone call august 11th 2019, I had the application sent by we care. Then there was the questionnaire that I had to fill out and mail back. By the time I got the questionnaire I had my own number with safe link.
I still had to go and pick up my benefit card in union square after my welfare appointment. So I took the 4 train to union square at 8 am and went to pick up my benefit card. Then I got a letter in the mail from welfare stating I would be getting $22.50 every two weeks and $194 in snap benefits nd that would continue for 6 months. But I had to keep going to we care for appointments sent to me by mail the entire time I waited for for my SSI to kick in. So by the time I got the questionaire I had my own number which I could put on the questionnaire where my return address and number requested.
I got a phone call for SSA with an appointment time to go to Pelham bay to see their doctors I also got a letter in the mail. I had to see their psychiatrist and also see their medical doctors. I had to bring with me my cane which I got in the hospital and I had to be there by 8am. It really wasn’t that far way only about a 45 minute train ride in total. The 4 train to 125th street then transfer to the 6 train going to Pelham. The offices where right across the street from the train station. I was out by 10 am.
I had to wait 5 months for an approval letter to come in the mail. I got my letter it was a Friday. I made plans to got that Monday to the Fordham offices in the morning. I thought I was going to be denied, but I won my case. When I got there Monday I found out that I would be getting retro pay (back pay) and $781 a month in benefits but I was going to get anything for 3 months. I also had to wait for my direct express card to come in the mail. I opted for the direct express card because of all my problems with my debt to banks I wasn’t sure if I would be able to open a bank account, or I could have them mail me my check but then I wouldn’t be bale to pay for things on line that I needed like clothes or streaming Netflix and the Stars app. I know it sounds like I far fetched but what else am I suppose to do. Its not keeping up with the jones anymore. I literally don’t have access to tv like regular people. I don’t have a remote control that I put in my hand and switch Chanels if I want. Its all in control of the security guards. I have to live. So I gave my case manager $1500 dollars out of my back pay in money orders. Paid my cell phone bill and bought clothes.
When we return to the shelter I have to start getting award letters to prove my income once a month for land lords. I have to start building a profile, and also give Ingrid 60% of my $781 a month to put into savings. I have to maintain my public assistance case for my snap benefits. You can’t have both public assistance and SSI at the same time unless it over rides. which is what the shelter tries to do, so every 6 months when you recertify your getting the $22.50 every two weeks while your out of commission for 3 months. But I plan to save money on my card. I don’t need any more clothes I can barely fit what I have in locker now, unless its a t shirt, I really don’t need any more clothes. I don’t wear shorts because Im too fat, so Ill wear my jeans and the the stuff I have now. I have a lot of winter gear because when I didn’t have I was freezing.
And these are the things that go on when living in a shelter. Every body more or less is reciveing ssi or public assistance. Theres still money for weed from the weed man that sells up the block from the shelter. Don’t get it misunderstood these woman find ways of entertaining themselves. They go to the little park up the block from the shelter and roll up.
The deli across the street take EBT and does things legit. The deli on the hill will let you get anything you want in the store with your EBT card including ear buds for a dollar more. I go to the deli on the hill because I can buy my cigarettes with my EBT card.
The woman form cliques so as long as your Spanish you have a group of friends. Im an outsider. I have Ruby and now Racheal who I hang out with.
It can take up to 4 years to get a place to live when dealing with the politics of shelter life. I have seen woman transferred to other shelters after 4 years, like a woman named Julia. She was at Susans place for 4 years when they transferred her because lack of employment. She was finishing up her degree as a medical assistant, and because lack of income they moved her to the stadium which located near yankee stadium.
There is some talent in the shelter also. Like norma who draws still life. Or the hair braiders like Crystal who went by the name Texas who got her own place to live by renting a room. She was working, she braided my hair the first time in box braids, T a woman who just recently became a Clint at Susans place paid for it for me for my birthday, hair included. Texas only charged her $45 dollars. I only just recently took them out while at the motel. I went to Harlem to a braiding shop and paid to have them taken out my hair washed and cornrows put in. I never got cornrows before but now its going to be my go to style. Theres an African hair braiding place on grand concourse I have to find out how to get there when I need my braids re done.
Theres always a hustle going on in the shelter there is always someone braiding hair or drawing, there’s even a woman by the name Kelsey who is designing her fashion line on her computer. Whether or not she makes it, the fact that she’s inspired to create while living in the shelter is beyond me. Which is why I decide to get my lap top. I like to write, but I had no one to share my thoughts with. At least I can share my experience by blogging and get some readers and leave something behind in the process. Theres more to come from me. I know I’m not that doomed with finding a place to live. Even if its a group home, it will be home for me.