We've heard stories of terrible conditions in housing projects and other apartments that lost power and water last week. Now recent reports say that the situation at one Manhattan school doubling as a city storm shelter is pretty dire, too, and teachers are concerned about what will happen when students return tomorrow.
Refugees and volunteers at a makeshift shelter at the Graphic Communication Arts school on W. 49th St say that the building has been taken over by homeless men and women, and that conditions have become very unsanitary. "One lady peed on the floor in the hallway," Bill Caravetta, a tourist from Florida, told the Daily News. "Another guy just peed in a bucket."
Teachers who returned to the school on Friday reported finding human feces in the lunchroom, and say computers and cell phones have been stolen. "I was appalled at what I saw," Alice O'Neill, a teachers' union representative, told NY1. "It was essentially an 1,100-person homeless shelter." There are also reports of a man urinating and defecating into a water fountain as well as empty liquor bottles littering the hallways, and refugees say the building itself is filled with vermin like lice and bed bugs. Volunteers have also said that many of the bathrooms are out of order and they have not had enough food to feed all the residents.
The city says they'll be cleaning the facility before students start showing up, and that the unusually high volume of refugees made it difficult for them to maintain the building. "It was a busy evacuation center," Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond told NY1. "It's natural that a facility that got that much traffic is going to need a thorough cleaning."
But the many homeless residents in the shelter are concerned they'll have no place to go once the students come back. "I think they should leave the school open for us because we need it," one person staying at the shelter told NY1. "We're going through a really tough time and we need this." About 2,000 students are expected to show up at the school tomorrow, and it's unclear what the city will do with the remaining refugees.