the long walk home 15

It's just kind of … awkward.

Maybe it's like working at a company in the mailing room. And you see the same employee slipping personal mail into the outgoing mail every day. And then one day, instead of a few envelopes, it's a package. Later, a box. Then, FedEx.

I remember landing at one shelter without any money and needing to travel elsewhere in the city. I asked about tickets for the public transportation system and was told the shelter didn't provide tickets to residents.

The shelter received the tickets from the city, for the sole purpose of providing them to shelter residents. It was an open secret the shelter employees were using the tickets for themselves; I don't know of anyone in that city's shelter system — either receiving or providing services — who was unaware of what this shelter was doing.

I hesitate to call it corruption or theft. The same way I wouldn't call an employee using a company's FedEx account for personal use. At the same time, it was awkward.

Most shelters are going to have some things walking in the front door which are supposed to be for residents, and walking out the back door in the pockets of the shelter's administration and staff. And sometimes you rationalize it. After all, some of these people are one paycheck away from living at a shelter themselves. In that case, what's the harm in a little graft? I don't even feel comfortable calling it that. And while I don't feel comfortable labeling it that, I also felt extremely uncomfortable when I thought of all the residents in that shelter –many of whom had no income — who also had no access to public transportation tickets when they should have. I was lucky; I was waiting for a check to arrive, but a lot of the other shelter residents weren't.

It's one thing to take some or even most of the tickets. And another to commandeer all of them.

How much of a fuss do you make about the postage for the envelopes? And then for the packages, and boxes, and then for the FedEx services? What if the employee is a supervisor? Or your supervisor's supervisor?

How much of a fuss should a shelter resident make about public transportation tickets when the shelter staff and administration seem friendly and approachable (if inept) about other things? When those same shelter staff and administrators eagerly proclaim their vigilance about protecting the rights of the homeless when it’s not their agency’s policies being questioned?

If not for the shelter residents, the shelter would not be eligible to receive any tickets from the city. In an ideal world, residents would receive all the tickets. Okay, it's not an ideal world. But why is the number of residents getting tickets zero?

At what point do you begin to question the motives of the shelter administration and staff playing those kind of win-lose games?

11. October 2017 by sojourner hardeman
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