NYC Homeless Shelter Horrors Include Puddles of Urine, Dead Rats, Roaches, and Unsafe Infrastructure

By
Preston Solomon holds up his shirt to display a rash he has developed since arriving at Auburn Family Residence, a shelter for homeless families and individuals, with his 16 year-old daughter on February 21, 2014 in the Fort Greene neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday that the city is removing hundreds of children from two city-owned homeless shelters after numerous reports of poor living conditions over the last decade. Rampant violence, cockroaches,  insufficient heat and spoiled food were just some of the conditions that state and city inspectors have cited. According to a recent study by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, New York City's homeless population increased by 13 percent at the beginning of 2013.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Preston Solomon holds up his shirt to display a rash he has developed since arriving at the Auburn Family Residence in Fort Greene, BrooklynPhoto: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The NYC Department of Investigation released a 54-page report on 25 shelters and temporary cluster sites visited by investigators last year, as requested by Mayor Bill de Blasio. DOI found 621 violations, including decaying rats that stank up shelters, a puddle of urine inside the only working elevator in one building, broken carbon-monoxide detectors or nonexistent smoke detectors, and a stairwell so rusted that inspectors immediately shut it down.

The report suggests that the city began immediately addressing these issues: “These problems are not new; indeed they are the inheritance of decades. However, to be clear, these problems have continued and there can be no further delay in addressing them.” The city currently houses nearly 12,000 families — which adds up to more than 60,000 people — in 145 permanent shelters and 16 temporary cluster sites where the homeless are placed in buildings with other tenants paying rent. Officials estimate that more than 3,000 more homeless people live in the city’s streets and parks. 

Homeless shelters currently do not have to pay fines for violations, which the report notes provides little incentive for these problems to be fixed. 

The Department of Homeless Services, noting that it had already closed two of the offending shelters, sent a statement to the New York Times reporting that it had “already begun implementing corrective actions in the areas referenced in the report, and pressing problems have either been addressed, or are in the process of being corrected.”