A woman living in a Hell’s Kitchen shelter was severely beaten with a pipe, requiring 14 stitches and a hospital stay — and residents of the W52nd Street Women’s Center say that this violent incident is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to safety issues at the West Side facility. 

Residents Lodia Melendez and Latouyea Stanford speak at a protest outside the shelter at 427 W52nd Street. Photo: Sarah Beling

Clients living at 427 W52nd Street (between 9/10th Avenue) gathered this week to protest the lack of action around an attack at the shelter on May 14, when a resident known as Barbara was beaten by a fellow shelter client with a metal pipe with such intensity that she required 14 stitches. While Barbara was transferred out of the Hell’s Kitchen shelter to an unknown facility, her assailant was temporarily returned to the shelter, residents told W42ST as they showed us graphic photos of Barbara’s injuries. The NYPD confirmed the incident with the following statement: “On Sunday, May 14, 2023 at approximately 1110 hours police responded to a 911 call of an assault in the vicinity of West 52 Street and 9 Avenue within the confines of the Midtown North Precinct.  Upon arrival officers were informed a 48-year-old female was struck in the head with a pipe.  EMS transported the victim to St.Luke’s Hospital in stable condition.” The shelter opened in 2019 is operated by Care for the Homeless, a private organization that currently runs 27 sites across the five boroughs. 

Cathy Sharp, Director of Development and Communications at Care for the Homeless countered the residents’ testimony, telling W42ST: “The information being cited is generally incorrect and neither of the women involved currently reside at the shelter. Furthermore, when formal complaints of any nature are received from residents, properly addressing them is our top priority. We are working and in open communication with the NYC Department of Homeless Services, the local precinct, the community board, and neighborhood representatives.”

Though the assailant was eventually removed from the facility, her attack, residents argued, was the gruesome consequence of a severely understaffed shelter, which is designated to support clients experiencing mental and physical health challenges. “I could beat you up and get put right back in here,” said shelter resident Lodia Melendez while carrying a sign reading “Safety” outside the facility. “Something is wrong with that. I guess she has to kill somebody to get sent away.”

“It’s not right. We need new security. We need a new director,” said fellow resident Latouyea Stanford. “There are a lot of mental patients here. We need a doctor and a nurse. We are afraid for our lives because this lady got beat with a pole on Mother’s Day. No one helps us. So this is why we are out here rallying — not just for Barbara but for the safety and the wellbeing of all of us living in this shelter.” 

Latouyea Stanford told W42ST that shelters were not equipped to support residents with significant mental health issues. Photo: Sarah Beling

Several residents told W42ST that while they felt empathy for some of the staff members at the shelter – noting that they too had been assaulted by residents — that other employees and security guards turned the other away amidst frequent fights, unsanitary living conditions and a lack of trained mental health professionals on staff. “Look at this — sleeping on the job,” one resident, who did not want to be named, said as they showed us photos of a security guard asleep at their post. “We have seniors that don’t get the help they need,” added Lodia, noting that without enough staffing, many patients were either under- or over-medicated. “I’m not sleeping well,” she said, “and I’m just popping sleeping pills like M&Ms.” 

Other residents told W42ST that they feared speaking out publicly out of concern that the staff would retaliate against them. “Because we’re out here, we’re not going to be able to do laundry,” said Latouyea. “That’s what they threatened.” We spoke with a security guard standing outside the facility who said that while he could not answer any questions about the May 14 incident, said that the laundry issue was related to short staffing, a concern that union representative Shawn Gray, who attended the protest as a member of DC-37, also echoed to us.

“We’re trying to bargain for the workers,” said Shawn, who told W42ST that he and other representatives from DC-37 were working on a union contract for employees at the center. Shawn added that this was the first time he had heard of Barbara’s attack, but that he had heard about staff being assaulted. When asked if a new employee contract would include measures of accountability for negligent staff members, he said that there would “definitely” be regulations in place to prevent mistreatment. “I’m out here to show support for everyone,” said Shawn. 

Shawn Gray of DC-37 hopes to ratify a union among workers at the shelter. Photo: Sarah Beling

Studies conducted by the Coalition for the Homeless have revealed that many New Yorkers would rather sleep on the street than risk injury or maltreatment at the city’s shelters where shelter operations mismanagement and a never-ending process to obtain housing vouchers leave many without other options. While 911 report data was not immediately available for the shelter, a record of 311 complaints noted multiple instances of noise from the building.

W42ST has reached out to Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, whose office organizers said they had been in touch with about issues at the facility as well as representatives from Manhattan Community Board 4, Assembly Member Tony Simone and City Council Member Erik Bottcher, whose office told us that they take all allegations of misconduct very seriously and would be following up with Care for the Homeless.  Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal told W42ST of the attack: “It is very concerning to hear about this incident. Residents of the 52nd Street Women’s Shelter deserve a safe and secure place to live. I spoke with Care for the Homeless who informed me that the assailant in this incident was arrested and has been removed from the shelter. They also said they are working to hire a health and psychiatric professional on site. I encourage anyone who remains concerned to reach out to my office, and we will help advocate to ensure issues are addressed.”  

W42ST has also reached out to the Department of Social Services (DSS), who told us: “For both DSS-DHS and our not-for profit provider-partners the safety and wellbeing of those we serve is our number one priority. We take any instances of violence or misconduct against our clients incredibly seriously and we immediately investigate and address any such cases. Our staff are trained to lead with care and compassion, and we work closely with all our clients to ensure that we are and providing requisite supports, maintaining open lines of communication, and addressing any concerns as they arise.”

Tiffany Barrett, a Hell’s Kitchen resident and former Caselulla staffer who helped residents organize the protest, told W42ST that she hoped a light could be shone on the rampant issues of mismanagement and understaffing at the city’s shelters. “It’s a silent problem,” she said, “but these are our neighbors.”

Residents and supporters protesting outside the shelter on Wednesday. Photo: Sarah Beling

Protesters emphasized a need for widespread policy change not just at their facility, but across the city for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers struggling with homelessness. “I used to have a condo,” said Lodia, who lost her Section 8 housing after leaving to take care of an ailing parent. “Now my voucher has expired, and they said they would help me. If someone out there can help me, I don’t have to stay here.” 

“They sell Section 8 to people that do not know the law here,” added resident Deon Beckford. “And because of that, there are innocent people that are suffering wrongfully. They want you to stay here as long as they can so the money can grow in their pockets –– that’s what they do and it’s sad and sinful,” she added. “Because while you’re dying, they’re living.” 

Resident Deon Beckford decried a system that keeps New Yorkers experiencing homelessness in shelters as “sad and sinful.” Photo: Sarah Beling

Join the Conversation


  1. Close the shelter! I am tired of my neighborhood being inundated by shelters & illegal migrant hotels.

    1. Personally I love living in a neighborhood and city which provides caring services for those in need. Those services clearly need to be improved, but the shelter residents are human beings just like you and me.

    2. Claire. It is disappointing to me that after reading an article about women who are in danger, who are trying to demand that they’re safe, your response is to focus on yourself and “your” neighborhood. How about instead of displacing people, we work together to find better housing, and safety and proper medical care for our neighbors in need! I understand that it can be easy for us as humans to think less of people who have different lives than we do, but the great gift of living in New York City is that all walks of life are on top of one another, and by getting to know our neighbors, we learn that we’re all one.

  2. These shelter contracts should ALL be torn up and start fresh. The operators are awful and have been. Why the City Comptroller isn’t reviewing the contracts is astounding. During COVID my co-hort Holly and I were able to actually close one badly operated shelter and shine a light on Acacia who managed the Skyline. Horrible. Didn’t provide the residents with any services, medication supervision, mental health follow ups, NOTHING. But yet this band of fools obtain another contract after COVID. Who is getting paid off? Which elected officials? Let’s get real, folks and see what’s really going on. These poor women are speaking out. Where are the electeds? Where is the outrage? It’s been happening under their noses for YEARS. I know Rosenthal is one to speak up and I’ll bet she’s on it like a cheap suit. As for the others? Wasted breath.

  3. Thank you Sarah and W 42nd street for covering this!
    As a follow up – first, the woman who attacked Barbara was not moved in response to the attack, she was moved directly after this protest. I would love to believe she was moved to facility that can offer her the support she needs but that is unlikely. The shelters tend to just bounce a client from place to place when they’re violent, neglecting to get them the support they need.
    Additionally, I was informed this morning that Latouyea (pictured above) was moved to a new shelter yesterday afternoon as retaliation for her participation in a peaceful protest. She is ok- but this is BEYOND unacceptable.

    1. Hello, Tiffany M. Barrette (your Middle Name i smy first name…)
      You remember me, I hope. Recall how I laughed when when we were talking? I told you that I no longer do Protests, and there would be Retaliation. Toya isn’t the only person who has been Transferred…
      Ch. was snatched up and moved so quickly that she didn’t have the time to go upstairs and pack. She wasn’t even allowed to get her Seizure Medication… It’s here, with All of her clothes and property. A bus drove up, she was put on it, and… Finis. That’s all.
      In fact, that whole crew is dispersed to- What was I told? Places more appropriate to them. For instance, places with Greater Security. You know- some shelters, like some Prisons, are Low Security- Others are High Security, with Stricter Rules and Harsher Punishments. You understand me.
      I would like to meet, if possible. But of course, not HERE.
      As I said, I can give neither e-Mail nor Phone number. Contact one of the clients and ask them to contact me. The email I give isn’t…

  4. The facility needs a mental health professional and medical professional to help the residents. They are human beings and deserve the necessary treatment.

  5. SAFE housing should be a right. I can’t tell u how many times a week I get a Citizen alert of something happening at that address. For a long period it was almost daily. They need proper support at that location (& every other shelter). This City needs to get its act together.

    1. Holli I would love to try to set up a community meeting with the Director of the shelter- would you be interested in joining? I’ve spoken with “Da Homeless Hero” who is an amazing advocate and he said that the unfortunate reality is a director is more likely to care if the community outside the shelter gets involved.

      1. OH… Not Everyone is gone. Just many. Maybe 5 transfers that night. Of The Sitting On The Steps Crew, I mean.
        And Rules have become much more strict, and more strictly enforced. Which may be good- but I doubt it.
        BTW, how do we know, without having contact, where the transferred Women are? Are they actually in other Shelters, or Blackballed and living in the Street in a Cardboard Box?

  6. Thanks for this story. PROUD to live in a neighborhood that actually cares for people -though tough and often not very pretty- at least we live up to our ideals and show up for one another. Stories like this and the previous one on Casa Maria are necessary and appreciated. And please DON’T FORGET to show up at the 1pm PRESS CONF., 6/3, Saturday, 412 West 46th St., to COMBAT one of Hell’s Kitchen’s most notorious SLUMLORDS.

  7. A shelter that houses individuals suffering with.mental health disorders should be required to have on-site mental health professionals in order to obtain that contract $$$. They should also have minimum staffing requirements to continue to hold the contract. People suffering with mental.health issues don’t just need a roof over there head they need mental health care to assist with med compliance and other issues that come along with it. Not to be left to the other residents to live in fear. I witnessed a very unstable woman back in the fall threatening people with a 2×4 while children were entering the school next door and she wound up smashing in the window of the shelter.
    Follow the $ trail with these homeless service contracts. It’s a billion dollar tragedy.

    1. The Shelter serves both the Mentally and Medically Ill. Some of the Women have several Chronic Illnesses- some are “Medically Involved, which means they have several severe Chronic Illnesses. It also serves The Chemically Addicted (Alcoholics and Addicts); Mentally Ill and Chemically Addicted (MICA), and Forensics- The Criminally Insane.
      There is one Criminally Insane Woman there now. The other Women call her “Granny Rapist”. Although she never showers herself, she watches the other Women shower.

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