I arrived at werk today at 8:45, went to my assigned classroom, 304, signed in with my name and case number and met my case worker Mr. Anderson. Immediately he said he would have to refer me out because I was wearing unacceptable attire–the new jeans my mother sent along with my sister who was in Brooklyn with me over the weekend. I guess my cute little blazer didn’t count as dress clothes. I understand that this program is boot-camp-like: designed to break people down, stamp out individualism, break the will, smash souls all in the name of fitting us into as neat little box that makes us easy to work with. It reminds me of being in the loony bin and given the wrong medication or being over medicated so we would all just be calm and easy to babysit. Most people were compliant, a few weren’t. I simply bided my time until I could get out as I will do here.
I was given a referral with a list of clothing pantries, sent to the resource room to use the inmates wall phone to call to see which places were open on Mondays, if they had my size and could accommodate another body in their program. I hit pay dirt with the first call I made, to Jan Hus Presbyterian Church on 74th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues. So, I trekked over to Manhattan’s chic Upper East Side, signed my name to a list and waited for intake.
I was in the basement of the church where two case workers in the homeless outreach program (both wearing jeans) were handing out toiletries and clothing to homeless or close-to-homeless people. They were also serving lunch in another room.
On the wall next to where I was sitting, the following was inscribed:
You shall love
The sovereign your God
With all your heart
And with all your soul
And with all your strength
And with all your mind
And love your neighbor
Not sure what to make of quotes from the bible…
Most of the people there were regular customers, like Pete who told me the names, addresses and phone numbers of all the good food pantries, even one with food for pets. With him was Daniel—or Dee. Dee, a pre-op transsexual told me she had spilled her entire bottle of Xanax down the sink by accident and she was desperately trying to get a new prescription, which she was having trouble doing because she has only recently refilled her prescription. I gave her the name of a few free clinics…You know, I used to work on the other side– in psychiatric homeless services.
After two hours of sitting and waiting, my turn came and Drew, a young caseworker at Jan Hus, asked me what I needed. I told him dress clothes and a written acknowledgment I’d been there. We have to have documentation for the BTW program of where we go and what we are doing to account for all the time we are not in class or we’ll be kicked out of the program. So, by the time the director of the clothing program, Frances (who could not believe my brand new jeans would not suffice for LOOKING for a job online as opposed to actually interviewing) had set me up with two pair of pants, two complementary tops and a pair of short, semi-stylish boots, Drew had my acknowledgment letter in hand and bid me good luck.
My next stop was my therapist’s office. I needed a letter from her to ensure that I can leave for my weekly afternoon therapy appointment. I have bipolar disorder and as if life ain’t hard enough, this program is already stressing me. I want to make certain I am able to leave the premises to get to therapy without getting axed.
I was late in picking up the letter from my therapist; everything is a sit and wait game in the city system. She was already with another patient and had to leave me an envelope with the letter outside her office. I didn’t get the chance to talk with her, which I was kinda desperate to do.
Just tried on the clothes: I will have to lose about 20 pounds for me to wear them and not have them wear me.