The city’s homeless shelters are so out of control that terrified residents say they’d be safer on the subways — or even in prison.
City records obtained by The Post documented nearly two dozen incidents of violence and other outrageous behavior during one week in mid-September — the same period when a despondent migrant mom hanged herself in one of the taxpayer-funded facilities.
The horrors included bloody beatings, unprovoked attacks, vicious domestic abuse and meaningless fights — several of which sent victims for hospital treatment of their injuries.
“I’ve been screamed at, threatened,” said Dominic, 30, an ex-con who lives at the infamous Bellevue Men’s Shelter in Manhattan. “I did five years in Sing Sing and felt safer there than I do here. I feel safer on the subways.”
A fellow resident, 34-year-old Kenneth Foster, told The Post, “It’s like the zoo let the animals out of their cages.”
“Two nights ago, one guy showed me a knife … He was like, ‘F–k with me and I f–k with you,’ and I was like, ‘I ain’t f–king with you’ and we was cool, but that’s just how it is here,” he added.
“The only good thing about this place is the hospital’s next door, so if I get a knife in the back I can just walk to the ER.”
The Post used the city’s Freedom of Information Law to obtain 424 pages of official reports about 273 “critical incidents” that took place between Sept. 16 and 21.
On Sept. 18, in the middle of that period, a 32-year-old migrant woman was found by one of her two kids hanging from a shower rod by an electrical cord in the Hollis Family Shelter in Queens.
The incidents that were considered to pose a threat to “the safety and well-being of shelter residents and/or staff” include:
- A man being attacked in his sleep and found with a bloody nose inside the shelter at the Holiday Inn Express at 153-70 South Conduit Avenue, Queens, around 11:50 p.m. on Sept. 17. The alleged attacker resisted arrest when cops arrived and was only subdued after being Tased twice.
- A woman said she was threatened with a knife by a fellow resident of the Women’s Center at 427 W. 52nd St. in Manhattan when a fight erupted during a fire drill there around 11 a.m. on Sept. 19. The woman who allegedly brandished the knife was arrested after acting “aggressive toward the staff and the officers” who responded.
- Surveillance cameras caught two staffers fighting inside the shelter at 1851 Phelan Place in The Bronx, around 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 21. Staffers found a man who was bleeding from the right side of his head and said his assailant — who fled the scene — had threatened him with a knife before bashing him with a “wet floor” sign.
- Staffers burst into a room at a shelter in The Bronx and found a woman holding her son as they were being beaten by her partner at around 5:50 p.m. on Sept. 16. The assailant ran away, leaving the woman with a swollen face and the boy with a bruised forehead.
- Two residents at 316 Beach 65th Street in Far Rockaway, Queens, were arrested after a fight erupted around 12:15 a.m. on Sept. 20, when one man accused the other of urinating and defecating on the floor of their communal bathroom.
A man who lives in the Queens shelter where the resident was attacked in his sleep said he recalled the incident.
Vincent, 40, added that he also left the shelter last year after the same thing happened to him.
“I was sleeping and my roommate assaulted me. Nothing was done about it and I felt safer on the street,” he said. “I left because they weren’t helping me. I stayed out in the street for a year.”
Vincent complained that the facility was “understaffed” and that “there’s not enough security.”
“Every f–king night EMS is here. It’s either a fight or people OD’ing,” he said.
A security guard at the shelter declined to comment or take a message for the person in charge.
“I don’t even know who management is here. I just started last week so I’m not familiar with a lot of people,” the guard said.
The chair of the city council’s General Welfare Committee, which oversees the Department of Homeless Services, told The Post the reports documented a “horrible situation.”
“It’s pretty consistent with what we’re hearing from folks, specifically people who are living on the streets: that the shelter system is not safe enough for them,” said Councilmember Diana Ayala (D-Upper Manhattan, The Bronx).
In a statement, the Department of Social Services defended its efforts to “provide adequate security across the shelter system,” saying that it “continues to strengthen our reporting mechanisms to capture any instances that may impact the well-being of our clients.”
The department added: “Over-simplistic and misleading assumptions about the shelter system based on a week of incident reports misrepresent the actual work and system improvements that are happening on the ground.”
Despite the department’s assertions, statistics show that violence and death in the shelters is becoming more common, not less.
NY1 recently reported that the number of shelter residents who died citywide increased 58% between 2019 and 2021, while records also showed a rise in the numbers of fights, sex offenses and drug overdoses in shelters for single adults.
The Mayor’s Management Report from Sept. 8 also cited an unspecified “increase in fights/disputes as well as drug-related incidents, including overdoses, consistent with citywide and national trends” during the fiscal year that ended in June, compared to the same period in 2020-21.
Shelly Nortz, deputy executive director for policy at the Coalition for the Homeless, said the “best solution” would be providing people “a secure and private room of their own with prompt access to affordable permanent housing.”
“Overcrowding people in congregate settings for extended periods of time during a pandemic – often with shared bathrooms, little storage and unappetizing food – is bound to heighten tensions in local shelters,” she added.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free and confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can dial the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 988 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.