A blistering complaint by a former Presbyterian Night Shelter resident has led two more people to raise allegations about their own bad experiences.
One of the new allegations involves a failure to provide prompt medical care for a shelter resident who sustained a serious injury from an assault inside the shelter. Additionally, a former PNS resident captured a video clip of a staff member telling him he was being suspended from the shelter for using his cell phone to film outside the building.
Jeffery Thomas alleges that another shelter resident repeatedly bashed him in the head with a metal padlock in June. Thomas said the injury required at least two-dozen stitches to his head. According to Thomas, he sat bleeding in the bathroom for a half-hour before emergency crews were called.
Thomas said the attack happened while he was walking near one of the stalls in a restroom at the shelter.
“I felt a sharp pain in my left temple, and I stumbled before I realized it was a blow to my head and someone was hitting me,” he said. “There was blood running down my face. I finally got turned around and was yelling, ‘Stop hitting me!’ and another resident came in.”
The restrooms are next to one of the shelter’s offices. Thomas believes “there’s no way [the administrators in the offices] didn’t hear me.”
Thomas said that prior to the attack, he never saw nor had any interactions with the man who hit him.
After he left the hospital, Thomas said he took two buses back to the shelter and “nobody from the staff had anything to say to me,” he said. He also alleges that he was forced to use “a bloody towel” as a pillow for three days. Further, Thomas maintains that since the attack, his case manager has had virtually no contact with him.
Toby Owen, the shelter’s chief executive officer, and spokesperson Betsy Beaman did not respond to repeated telephone calls and emails seeking comment prior to deadline.
Kaelyn Winston, 18, pleaded guilty to assault/bodily injury, a Class A misdemeanor, in connection with the June 14 attack, according to Samantha Jordan, a communications officer with the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office. Winston was eligible for probation because he has no prior criminal record but was sentenced to 30 days in the county jail, Jordan said.
Reports state that Thomas was transported by ambulance to JPS for treatment. There is no indication of how long Thomas waited at the shelter before receiving treatment, Jordan said.
Thomas contacted us following our report about a former PNS resident, Anthony McDaniel, who wrote a 35-page complaint that was reviewed by officials from the city and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. McDaniel’s allegations included unappetizing food, unsanitary conditions, and rude behavior by some of the staff members.
McDaniel came to the Fort Worth area after he was displaced from his Port Arthur home following Hurricane Harvey in 2017. A substitute teacher in the Fort Worth school district, McDaniel also holds a master’s degree in public administration.
His complaint about PNS led City Manager David Cooke and Owen to prepare a report for Mayor Betsy Price and the city council. An inspection of the shelter was also conducted, but it reportedly turned up no violations. Additionally, promises were made that more training would be provided for some of the shelter’s staffers. In all, more than a dozen responses were given to the many issues raised by McDaniel.
Another former PNS resident also reached out to us recently.
Doyle Fine, a U.S. Navy veteran and Fort Worth native, said he can vouch for what McDaniel said about his springtime stay at PNS.
“He’s not alone,” Fine said. “I was quite aware of things happening at the shelter during the same timeframe.”
In a video provided by Fine, a shelter staff member attempted to take away his cell phone and said she was suspending him for filming on a sidewalk outside the shelter.
Police were called to the area after someone reported another homeless man who was drinking beer on a street corner near the shelter, Fine explained. The video clip shows several Fort Worth police officers standing around the man in a half-circle. They simply tell him he can’t have an open container.
One of the officers asks the man if he is going to leave.
“If you let me, I’ll get up off my butt right now and take my ass anywhere out of this area,” the man tells police.
After noticing that Fine is filming the encounter, one of the officers turns to him and says, “Sir, you can’t do that.”
Fine replies that he believes he can under the First Amendment.
A shelter staffer chimes in, saying, “You’re on Presbyterian Night Shelter property. You cannot record.”
“I’m on the street,” Fine answers.
The staffer then moves in closer and demands that Fine give her his phone. He refuses.
“OK,” she says in the video clip. “You’re being suspended for recording on Presbyterian Night Shelter property.”
Fine said that after he finished his kitchen duties at the shelter that day, he was pulled aside and told he was being booted out for the night.
He went to Burnett Park, where the homeless can “lay low and sleep without the cops seeing you, and there’s a place to charge your cell phone,” Fine said. “I had a peaceful night away from” the shelter.
He stayed at the shelter for about two-and-a-half months and connected with True Worth Place, a services center affiliated with PNS which helped him find an apartment through a veteran’s program.
Within two weeks, Fine said, he was given a list of places that can help him under the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Fine, who plans on starting his own business, emphasized that he appreciated the help he was given at True Worth and PNS. “I’ve met staff members and volunteers who were good people and had the best of intentions,” Fine said about PNS. “But there are structural problems that could be worked on.”
Fine said he believes the shelter is sometimes falling short of its motto to treat everyone who comes through its doors with dignity and respect.