New York City’s homeless shelters have deteriorated into such lawless deathtraps that they make prison look appealing, according to a New York Post report on violence in the shelter system published on Wednesday.
Using the state’s Freedom of Information Law, the Post found no less than 273 “critical incidents” were recorded over the course of a single week earlier this year, including nearly two dozen violent events.
“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,” shelter resident Kenneth Foster told the Post, describing how a fellow resident had whipped out a knife as a warning not to “f**k with [him].”
Bellevue Men’s Shelter inhabitant Dominic argued that city shelters are scarier than prison. “I did five years in Sing Sing [prison] and felt safer there than I do here,” he told the Post. “I feel safer on the subways.”
The 424 pages of records the outlet examined detailed a pattern of shocking assaults. A man staying at a shelter inside a Holiday Inn Express in Queens was brutalized in his sleep, a mode of attack which is reportedly common. Two residents of a Far Rockaway shelter were arrested after coming to blows over allegedly soiling the communal bathroom. Staff walked in on a woman and her son being beaten at a shelter in the Bronx, scaring off their attacker before he could do permanent damage.
Vincent, a former shelter resident who returned to the streets after he, too, was attacked by his roommate while sleeping, told the Post he left because “nothing was done” about the assault, blaming understaffing and insufficient security.
That same week, a migrant mother from Colombia was found by one of her children hanging by an electrical cord at their shelter in Queens. The city government has struggled to house illegal immigrants in already-overcrowded homeless shelters.
While the city’s Department of Social Services attempted to dismiss the report as “over-simplistic and misleading assumptions about the shelter system,”even the mayor’s office has acknowledged an “increase in fights/disputes as well as drug-related incidents” this year compared with 2021.
Fights, sex offenses, drug overdoses, and deaths in city shelters have been surging for years, according to data obtained by NY1, with the number of shelter resident deaths increasing by 58% between 2019 and 2021.