Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Hearth Act: An Open letter to the ACLU, Wake County, Congress and President Obama

In a previous blog, I went over my reasons for believing that the Hearth Act is not working as intended.

Since that time I have been told that I had spent my last night at South Wilmington Street Center (SWSC) in Raleigh, NC, later rescinded by the Case Manager after I complained that my First Amendment Rights had been violated.

At the same meeting he warned me that my time was coming, but that he would give me proper notice when that was decided. Since then, however, I have seen subtle warnings, one might say harassment, that impending doom is falling: My facilitator warning the whole jobs group I must attend once a week that if we didn't do EXACTLY as she says - including applying for a job at a Pawn Shop that hasn't publicly run job ads, and applying at Toys R Us (sorry, can't make a backwards 'R' here), both of which would require me to lift no matter what the position. I can't lift heavy objects. I have no strength or stamina in my right arm. But if we don't do exactly as we're told we could be asked to leave the shelter with no notice.

I have noticed an increased number of residents who have been asked to leave for minor infractions of the rules, such as a friend who was asked to leave after he was given a breathalyzer and blew .01, to which he attributed to mouth wash.

Now in the shelter's defense, because I want this to be a fair article, Frank Lawrence, the center director has warned us about using mouthwash with alcohol in it, but really, .01?

I'm not immune to the harassment. In addition to the premature ejection with no notice, which I'm certain as initiated by someone who read my last blog, and the harassment of a facilitator who likes to remind me that my time is short, and there are no excuses, I came back from class last night to find that someone hadn't entered my alert, which gives me permission to stay out of the shelter past 7pm. I rolled in at 11:30, which has been usual for me on Mondays and Wednesdays the last 4 weeks, and was told no alert existed, though one seemed to exist on Monday night when I rolled in at the same time. If there was no alert for Wednesday, then why was there one for Monday, when both were submitted on the same sheet last week?

The long and short of that is that I was breathalyzed and passed. The minor infraction of coming into the shelter late was not due to my neglect. If it was not put in, I have no control over that, but my concern is that it will be used against me to force me out of the shelter.

Once you are forced out of the shelter, you cannot come back for 90 days. This is a fairly recent addition to the mix of penalties SWSC has added in the last 18 months. They are there to drive men out of the shelter and keep them out, halting, ever so briefly, the revolving door I described in my last shelter blog. All the changes are due to pressure put on SWSC by Wake County officials. They claim it is due to the Hearth Act.

The thing is, I've read the Hearth Act and nowhere in it does it suggest that limiting shelter stays and keeping homeless men out of the shelter is the proper course of action. In fact, the Hearth Act is designed to eliminate homelessness by 2015. That is in its stated goals. You can't end homelessness by driving the homeless out of shelters, onto the streets or woods, and keeping them out of the shelter.

Therefore I submit that SWSC is in violation of the Hearth Act.

What do I want from this?

I want it explained to me how an act that is meant to help can be so perverted that it can be used to drive men out of shelters and keep them out.

I want to know what local, county, state and Federal authorities are going to do about this.

I want the spirit of the Hearth Act followed and homelessness truly eradicated, not shoved under a rug. 'Homeless? We've got no homeless. Just check the shelters.' Meanwhile men continue to live under overpasses, in the woods around SWSC, on benches and other less than happy places.

I want a permanent place to call home, not just for me, but for all homeless. Because shelter life sucks, is marginally above being in prison, though not as bad as living in the streets. It is not the life I choose. It is the life I am forced into because I am having such a hard time finding a job.

Frank Lawrence, the center director at SWSC, keeps saying that he never refuses a request for help. Frank, consider this my official request for help. Can you give me what I need to get out of the shelter and off the streets?