Is the city breaking the law? Brooklyn woman sleeps in car due to ‘inhuman’ conditions – NBC New York

There are fresh allegations that New York City is violating housing rights for women entering its homeless scheme, as some say poor conditions, long delays and migrant shelters are prompting them to choose the street instead.

Kathia Wiscovitch, a victim of domestic violence, says applying for a shelter in New York this week was so messy and scary — she went out and moved into a rental car.

“I’ve hit rock bottom and there’s no help out there for people like me,” she told the NBC New York I-Team.

Wiscovitch said she was in disbelief at her situation and had spent long nights in a parked car — a painful decision, especially after being forced to leave her Brooklyn home last weekend.

“I am in a situation of domestic violence. I feel so hopeless,” she said. “Hopeless, like I don’t know which way to go.”

Wiscovitch has two jobs, a college degree, and a promising professional dance career. She also has a protective order against her abuser and a city clerk to help her.

Text messages viewed by the I-Team show that a clerk at the City of Wiscovitch’s Family Justice Center mistakenly sent to an emergency shelter on Williams Avenue in Brooklyn in search of a bed.

But although the sign on the door still reads “Help Women’s Center,” Wiscovitch learned it’s no longer a women’s shelter — because the city recently rededicated it to accommodate migrants, who are now pouring into city shelters by the thousands.

A spokeswoman for the Family Justice Center did not respond to a request for comment about the error.

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After telling her clerk that Williams Avenue was not an option for her, Wiscovitch moved on, making her way to the city’s only remaining reception center for women: Franklin Avenue in the Bronx.

“It’s inhuman,” Wiscovitch said, adding that she waited there for about 12 hours until she couldn’t take it anymore.

“There were people in hospital gowns. Other people were drunk there, they kept hitting me. There are people with mental illnesses,” she said. “So if you stand up and someone sits, that’s it, you can’t fight. You don’t have a bed, so everyone fights over the chairs.”

After hearing from others that the wait could be up to 24 hours or even days, she said she gave up at 2am and, stressed and asleep because she had to work the next morning, drove to a rental car.

“I literally cried in my car and then … I fell asleep,” she said.

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As heartbreaking as Wiscovitch’s story is, after interviewing her, the I-Team learned that she’s not alone.

“We’ve heard from women who have waited days for access to a regular bed, some have slept in chairs,” said Tim Campbell, program director for the Coalition for the Homeless’ Right to Protection. If someone comes into the protection system, they deserve a bed that night and they should get a bed that night and that is required by law. That doesn’t happen with Franklin.”

The Coalition for the Homeless and the Legal Aid Society told the I-Team that they have been warning the city of increasing concerns from their customers for the past two weeks.

“They were waiting in an area that smelled like urine,” Campbell said. “Women are left out and we are deeply concerned that people are not getting the beds they deserve. These violations are as serious as possible in terms of the right to protection.”

The Legal Aid Society points out that the city’s conversion of Brooklyn’s women’s reception office to a migrant shelter has put a strain on the women’s system, which now has only one reception center.

“It appears that the Franklin admissions office is understaffed to handle the increased volume,” said Legal Assistance Attorney Josh Goldfein.

The city’s welfare office did not provide direct answers to I-Team’s questions about whether the conversion of this women’s reception office into a migrant shelter contributed to delays.

Indeed, in response to a number of specific questions, DSS has neither acknowledged nor admitted to delays in providing shelter for women – saying in a statement that “any reports of challenges or problems will be taken seriously, investigated and addressed”.

But the Coalition for the Homeless, which has the power to monitor conditions at the shelters under longstanding court orders, says they have been reporting the Adams government to “troubling” violations at the Franklin Intake Center since Jan. 9. After receiving no response, Campbell says they made an appointment to visit the Franklin Shelter on Tuesday, and their visit confirmed what their clients were telling them.

In a Thursday email to DSS, received by the I-Team on Friday, the coalition said its clients were denied access to beds on at least six occasions — in some cases affecting about 30 women.

The subject of the email read “Serious Outages at Franklin” and called on the city to share its “plans to immediately address the unacceptable situation at Franklin that is endangering the health and well-being of our customers.”

Despite those previous Coalition for the Homeless flags, DSS spokesman Nicholas Jacobelli told the I-Team on Friday he was not aware of any delay and would review it again.

DSS said in a statement that “there are ample vacancies within the protection system for single adult women” and that Franklin employees “work diligently to meet the needs of all clients.”

It’s unclear how long Kathia would have had to wait for a bed if she hadn’t decided to leave the city’s admissions office.

But she tearfully said she still “feels stuck in the system and it’s very overwhelming.” Wiscovitch hopes to find a bed in a private domestic violence shelter.

The city, which has had to open more than 70 shelters for migrants since the summer of 2022, insists beds for women are available in its system.

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