Chuen Kwok, 83, was on the street when lost this life Saturday — one of four homeless men beaten to death while they were sleeping. One more was critically injured.
"This must be a loud and important wake up call to all of us," said Democratic Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou of Manhattan.
Dozens of community leaders and elected officials gathered in Chinatown on Monday to mourn the loss and to call for action.
"Although Mr. Kwok and the other victims were homeless, they were not nameless," said Shirley Ng, a friend of Chuen Kwok. "I am 100 percent positive they were once loved by someone and cared by someone they loved."
The alleged assailant, Randy Santos, has been charged with murder.
NY1 learned that Santos has been in and out of shelter for years. Police told us he had six prior arrests, at least one of them for assault.
For years, the city has been grappling with an ever-present homeless crisis. About 3,500 people sleep on the street every night.
Steven Banks, the city's homeless services commissioner, would not say what kind of interaction they may have had with its own homeless outreach teams.
"We have the ability to give them beds and get them on a pathway to permanent housing, but building that trust for people that have been very distrustful of institutions is what's the hardest part of our work," Banks said Monday. "We just weren't quick enough to get to these five individuals before four of them lost their lives and one of them is now clinging to his life."
In response to the brutal attack, the city said it was increasing police presence in the area and sending more homeless and mental health outreach teams to Chinatown. We spotted one of them Monday afternoon.
"I never knew this before. I have never seen you on the street before," one man said at an outreach team member.
The move has not brought relief.
On the Bowery, Melissa Johnson told NY1 she has been sleeping on the streets for years. After the attacks, she got a chain for protection.
"I am walking around with stuff I shouldn't be because I am afraid it is going to happen to me in my sleep," Johnson said. "We're homeless. It's bad enough we are already in a bad situation. Now we have to be afraid someone is going to kill me in my sleep."
There is no question this tragedy has severely impacted the homeless community. In fact, one man told us he is now sleeping on the street with one eye open.
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