Sunday, February 20, 2011


There was an ad on tv for the helpline. National Helpline Day. So I called the Helpline to find help shoveling.

I had previously called Fatih in Action, that, without the great guy who has now retired, is less than helpful. 'We only have people who do rides,' the harried sounding woman said. This wasn't true when Tom was there, because they had arranged for people to come help me before. But Tom is gone.

The Helpline woman asked me about my location, zip code and age. When i said my age, she said i was too young to get help. 'I'm paralyzed and in a wheel chair', i said.
She sputtered and then raised her voice,"Why don't you ask your neighbors"!

This hurt and then infuriated me. If i could ask my neighbors why would i call the helpline? But more to the point, if i had decent neighbors, which i don't, really, I wouldn't have to ask them..
And after having identified myself as paralyzed and in a wheelchair, what more did i need to say?

As I began to say these things to the helpline woman, she hung up on me.

So I wrote a letter to the Institute for Human Services that I sent to three people, the head and a couple of folks in the 211 Helpline Department since they listed only names and not responsibilities.

The reply:
Thank you for contacting 2-1-1 HELPLINE with concerns about how your call last week was handled. It appears that the person who took the call was not familiar with the resource(s) that might have been able to assist you at that time.

I have done further checking into what is available and I have learned that NY Connects does now have a list of people who may be available to do snow shoveling. You may reach them at 607-664-2298 or 866-221-7324.

I realize that snow shoveling may not be as critical as the weather warms but if there is an organization that can provide the human services you need we will do what we can to assist with making a connection.

My apologies for our having missed this referral when you called

Ms. X

Thanks for your reply.

It wasn't only the lack of resource identification --- it was that blaming-the-victim tone that made the experience so searingly memorable.

If my/our neighbors helped, there would be no need for social services, so to my mind
it was obvious that I wasn't being assisted, which is why I called.

A simple "I don't know" would have gone further than the turning-the-table tact.
I know something is wrong with me. I am paralyzed and in a wheelchair. I need
no further reminders of my disability.

When I called the number you've listed, they identified themselves as Office of the Aging/RSVP. I asked if they could connect me to NY Connects. They did. However, as this was a bit confusing, perhaps you could, in future, give the direct dial for NY Connects, or if there is none, ask the phone answerer to include that name among
those that they say when answering the phone.


Anyway, I connected to the designated folks who said they would send me a list of possible people. They e-mailed me a form to sign, which i did the same day and e-mailed back. They said they would send me the list of providers the next day. It is a week later and I STILL don't have the list of possible people. I've emailed them twice and gotten no answer.

I was told about a woman who does things and called her. She was leaving town for the holiday. She gave me the phone number for a college kid, who came on Saturday and did a half ass job of removing the now icy snow from the most critical place -- at the base of my ramp... It cost me $10.

My front is clean and dry and there is still not a clear path at the back for me to get out.

He was nice enough and told me he liked classical music -- I confused him by saying what was playing was opera and that it wasn't the TV but the radio and that it comes on every Saturday afternoon.

So much effort for such a little result. It rebreaks my heart that I thought the lesson, if any, was about asking for help. But I exhaust myself asking, trying to get, then still have to pay and don't get the result I used to be able to get myself, in half the time, with no expense.

Hurry, spring.

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