SUNSET PARK, Brooklyn — The five-story homeless shelter, nestled deep in a commercial stretch of Sunset Park Brooklyn, has seen better days — most of them likely dating back to when this location operated as a Sleep Inn hotel.
But the New York City Department of Homeless Services, led by embattled Commissioner Steven Banks, authorized a full shelter conversion, complete with metal detectors and security guards.
Still, homeless resident Justin Joseph said safety remains an issue.
Joseph was attacked by a shelter employee and wounded.
The alleged attacker, identified by police as Alton Noel, is an employee of non-profit shelter operator Samaritan Village.
“He stabbed me with a screwdriver, and he stabbed me with a pen," Joseph said.
Joseph showed the face and head wounds he suffered when the shelter staffer allegedly went after him with a pen and a flat head screw driver.
“I just don't want to get into another altercation with this guy," Joseph said.
Both men ultimately accused the other of starting the fight.
Joseph declined to press charges out of fear of retaliation.
It was only when PIX11 News visited the shelter that the story took a couple of unexpected turns.
The first surprise?
A shelter employee, who we thought was going to find someone from Samaritan Village for us to speak with, mysteriously slipped out the side door and walked up the block.
Less than an hour later, a spokesperson for Banks emailed us to say the employee who allegedly stabbed Joseph "has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.”
The second unexpected twist came soon after when Vincent Pinder, a Samaritan Village Senior Case manager and Night Supervisor, appeared out of the blue in front of the PIX11 News truck.
He was furious, and after a few seconds, the reason for his anger was obvious.
"Yes, I just went into my manager's office and said I can't deal with this bull--- anymore," Pinder said. "And I'm going into my office to take my stuff out and I'm going back home."
"I've had it with the Samaritan Village BS," Pinder said. "The way they treat the clientele, the way they talk to clients. They talk to these clients as if they're animals. We have a guest here now, she's a transgender, and management is trying to ship her out, because quote, unquote, they don't want to deal with her.
"This is how bad it is. For the last three nights, clients are sleeping without linens on their beds."
Pinder said he was hired by Samaritan Village three months ago.
He said Samaritan Village does not work diligently enough to provide residents with the social services they need.
"The longer they're [residents] here, the more money they [Samaritan Village] get," Pinder said.
We reached out to Samaritan Village to discuss shelter conditions even before we met Pinder.
The non-profit has more than 100 open violations across the city according to the Mayor’s October Management’s report.
Samaritan Village has yet to get back to us.
We reached out again to DHS to follow up on Pinder’s claims.
The communications staff failed to offer specifics on this shelter, but touted more aggressive inspections and an increase in the number of fixed violations, and appeared to deny Samaritan Village was forcing its residents to sleep without bed linens.
“Yesterday, this location received a perfect score from the Coalition for the Homeless on a building inspection that includes examining whether there are adequate linens,” said Lauren Gray, a DHS spokesperson.
"It's [like] Riker's Island," Pinder said. "The clients put up with it, because they have no other choice. They're cold, they're homeless."