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"The City's Response Sucked" - One Homeless Man's Hurricane Story
Sunday night I missed the last train, because i was watching the Giants and Cowboys game, and the crawl at the bottom of the screen said that the subway shutdown was extended til 9PM because the winds weren't so bad.
But when I went to get on the train, I saw that they had put up the tape blocking the entrance. So i asked the officer on the platform what was up, and he said really sarcastically, "haven't you been watching the news?" I told him the news said trains were running til 9PM. He said "well, I'm telling you it closed at 7pm." So I kept it moving, took the last bus from the Bronx to Queens, then another bus from Queens to Brooklyn. A hell of a Sunday. When i finally got to my shelter, I was informed they had already evacuated, and we were all being transfered to other BRC facilities. But they were nice, they assisted me, late as it was, they gave me a van ride to a new shelter in Manhattan, on 25th bw 6th and 7th. The driver got lost - even with the GPS, a 45 minute drive took 90 minutes.
And it was all downhill from there.
This new place, everyone who worked there was really crass. Right off the bat, the worker who signed me in was really disrespectful, so I had to let her know about herself - and that became a dispute, until her supervisor came over and was real nice, and handled it. The facility wasn't as nice as the one i was normally in, and most of these workers were not professional, and had so much attitude whenever you asked them for anything, because from their perspective they got stuck with double work. They were cool with their normal clients, but not with us. Half of those workers were milking the time, they hadnt been home since Sunday and they were taking it out on us. All the guys from my shelter were put in a dorm-style room - talking to them, even guys I hadn't really ever talked to before, we realized we were all going through the same thing, and that as bad as our old shelter had been, obviously other places were so much worse.
The lights went out at 8:45PM. We were assured the facility was safe, there were 2 backup generators. They kept reassuring us - they told us 4 times. But at 8:45 everything went down, elevators, TV, lights, everything. No elevators in an 18 story office building, full of homeless people! People were uptight, scaried, worried, making lots of noise because nobody knew what was happening. We weren't told anything until 12, when they said Con Ed had turned everything off, and the facility's generators weren't working, but we could never get any details. Staff was so rude and crass and unhelpful - they didn't even want us walking out the door. We couldn't even go outside to smoke a cigarette. At first I thought they were concerned about our safety, but the more i looked at it they didnt give a sh*t about us. They just didnt want to lose out on some money.
All kinds of homeless populations were in there - CDC recovery cases, people with mental illnesses.... And no hot water, for all those days. My dorm alone was 30-40 guys, so you multiply that by 18 floors - they were all occupied - and you can imagine what it was like in there. After two days I couldn't take it, I said let me risk this Alaska water and take a shower, because I couldn't handle it anymore. Tensions were high. You tried to play a board game, and that wasn't allowed either. It got to be really bad. Just in the two days I was there, from Monday to Wednesday, there were 4 fights - someone got arrested, someone pulled a scalpel. 3 cop cars, 9 officers, in the lobby. 1:15PM, after lunch.
Tuesday night stuff was getting rough. Folks hadn't been able to get their medication, they were acting up, some of them had serious issues, people were accusing each other of stealing - they were fighting over a pillow! and it turned out to be one of the workers who took it.
By the time we were allowed to go back to our old shelter, it took me about 3 hours to get there... and most of that was spent waiting for the bus.
My opinion is, the city's response sucked. Some areas got a better response, the same thing as always. It boils down to the politics - rich vs poor. City Hall was bright. Broadway was bright. And even when the buses started running again, why have a Sunday schedule? I saw like 4 arguments on the bus ride, between the riders, because things were so overcrowded and people were frustrated from waiting 2 hours sometimes for a bus. Con Edison, that explosion should have never happened. We all knew how serious the storm was going to be- why didn't they shut those transformers down? First night it looked like the night Obama got elected - a party in the streets. Second night it was like a ghost town.
They still didn't get a lot of things right. In my opinion, they didn't do enough. Especially when you have big parts of Brooklyn , especially the poor areas, getting hit the hardest. Same as always.
And honestly, I'm not the biggest fan of the NYPD, but overall they did their job. I'll give them that much.
- Felipe Martinez
Member, Picture the Homeless