NEW YORK – The wife of a Venezuelan asylum seeker who died in an apparent suicide spoke out on Thursday.
She hopes the city can be forced to take mental health issues more seriously and add many additional Spanish-speaking staff members to shelters.
Police were called back to a Long Island City hotel-turned-shelter where earlier this month a 26-year-old man reportedly took his own life in the room he shared with his wife and 3-year-old daughter.
Three more of their children remain in Venezuela with relatives.
The young widow of the asylum seeker was at a press conference to address the city’s urgent need to bolster mental health resources at shelters.
“He was like a truck driver,” said family friend Janet Cardi, translating. “The pressures were just too overwhelming for him.
Cardi posted a GoFundMe plea to help “John O’s family pay for funeral expenses.”
“What she would like to express is that she’s very grateful for all the support we’ve given her so far,” Cardi said.
The family’s four months in the US were described as a lonely nightmare in a shelter they said felt like a prison.
“She wants to continue to keep her family together,” Cardi said.
Seeking answers from shelter staff, New York City Public Advocate Juman Williams and City Councilwoman Julie Vaughn were blocked.
As the resident was let in, Williams made a move to go inside. CBS2 was kept outside while the public advocate had a brief discussion inside with the shelter manager.
“We still have a lot of unanswered questions. “They refuse to answer questions,” Williams said. “I don’t see the problem itself getting any easier because we’re getting more and more asylum seekers coming in.”
“When I ask them questions about how many people speak Spanish, they can’t tell me,” Vaughan said.
Vaughn and Williams said the next step is to contact Department of Social Services Commissioner Gary Jenkins and inform him of what’s going on and conduct an investigation.
The shelter manager declined to speak on camera or provide a statement to CBS2.