We have been examining violence and drugs saturated city homeless shelters all week. In the final piece of our series, Unsafe Haven, we look at how these reports flew under the radar for so long. How will the city make sure it doesn't happen again? NY1's Courtney Gross reports.
Ask the residents of homeless shelters, from Harlem to Elmhurst, Queens — the problems of drugs and violence invaded the system long ago.
"It's horrible living here. It's terrible. It's terrible," said Paul Bedio, a resident of a Queens shelter. "I believe people in jail have it better than they have it here."
While we investigated shelter violence this week, we saw men with bruises and scars.
"It's miserable. It's miserable," said one man.
But for years, these black marks on the shelter system were not seen by City Hall.
"We've been saying for a long time now that things are really bad in many of these facilities," said Mary Brosnahan, head of the Coalition for the Homeless.
It was not until December that the de Blasio administration began a large-scale investigation into crime and security in city shelters.
Before that, City Hall for years did not track certain violent crimes occurring here.
Domestic violence reports were seen only as single, isolated incidents. The same goes for drugs use, or for child abuse and assaults.
These reports were filed by individual shelters, but no one examined them closely, or they were mischaracterized as a whole.
Gross: Was the paperwork lost in the shuffle?
"No, the individual shelters provided the information, but the process was to categorize the most serious cases as those involving death and injury and life-threatening injuries," said Steven Banks, the commissioner of the city's Human Resources Administration.
But that means the city was not closely monitoring other violent trends at shelters. So, for instance, City Hall missed how severe the domestic violence problem was.
That is changing. As part of an overhaul of how the city addresses security in its sprawling shelter system, the Department of Homeless Services is now committing to tracking all major crimes in its 600-plus shelters.
That means the department intends to keep an eye on everything from domestic violence to overdoses, crimes we have been reporting on all week.
"These were the things that the city never wanted to own up to, and I think it's to the mayor's credit that he has directed this 90-day review, and as part of this 90 review we are shedding a light on the problems that have built over many years," Banks said. "We are laying out a roadmap for addressing those problems."
Going forward, the city is committed to reporting on these statistics at least twice a year.