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Ozone Park mother livid after daughter was sexually harassed in front of ‘dangerous’ shelter for homeless men

Aug. 17, 2023 By Bill Parry

A furious and fed-up Ozone Park mother rallied with community leaders Wednesday, Aug. 16, outside a shelter for homeless men where her 17-year-old daughter was allegedly sexually harassed by residents twice in the last month.

Lissette Moreno joined members of the Ozone Park Residents Block Association outside the Laurel Hall Shelter at 85-15 101st Ave. and told them about the first incident that happened to her daughter on July 18, as the teenager was walking home late at night after her shift at Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach.

“It’s just not safe here. You have people here with mental illnesses that shouldn’t be here and if they are here, they should be on medication, they should be supervised,” Moreno said. “This shelter needs to go. It’s too dangerous for our kids,”

She said she lives on 86th Street directly next door to the shelter which is located across 101st Avenue from Crossover Baptist Church a block away from Ampere Playground.

The Laurel Hall Shelter is located across 101st Avenue from Crossover Baptist Church, a block away from Ampere Playground.Photo by Paul Frangipane

“Who puts a shelter here where there are schools, where there are children? I have my daughter, she comes home from work at late hours, why does she have to be harassed by these guys?” Moreno asked. “I’m just so tired.”

She wanted her daughter to speak at the rally, but she stayed away out of fear of being targeted by the residents of the shelter. Moreno said the men are out in front of the building each night drinking and smoking and blasting loud music.

“This is a men’s shelter, so when they’re outside they want to interact with women,” Moreno said.

After her daughter was allegedly sexually molested by two men in front of the shelter on July 18, Moreno found her daughter trembling as the men were telling the teen to add their numbers to her phone. Two days later, one of the same men followed her daughter up the block. Her complaints have fallen on deaf ears and the people who run the shelter “have no compassion,” she said, adding her daughter wants to move out of the neighborhood and they are currently looking for a new place.

Ozone Park Residents Block Association president Sam Esposito organized the rally to make his community aware of the danger posed by the residents who live in the Laurel Hall Shelter, which opened in 2019, but it is now being run under new leadership. He said communications between the community and the shelter have become non-existent.

“We just feel that we had a good working relationship at one point and now we don’t,” Esposito said. “We feel that they need to be held accountable for the clients that are here. We just feel that if we don’t have a good working relationship, this could have turned into a rape. The girl really felt like she was going to be raped and she was in fear for her life. We can’t have that here.”

Members of the Ozone Park Residents Block Association rallied outside the shelter, calling on its operator to communicate better with the community. State Senator Joseph Addabbo said a meeting will be held in the near future.Photo by Paul Frangipane

After Moreno’s daughter was accosted last month, he approached the service provider Lantern and asked for a meeting to resolve the dangerous situation. A meeting was set up for Aug. 8 with state Senator Joseph Addabbo, police from the 102nd Precinct in Ozone Park and members of Community Board 9, but when they arrived, Lantern refused to meet, “slamming the door in our faces and refusing to even talk to the Senator,” according to Esposito, who said that their excuse was the city’s Department of Homeless Services told Lantern not to meet with the group.

QNS reached out to DHS and is awaiting a response.

Laurel Hall Shelter just happens to be around the corner from P.S. 64 – The Joseph P. Addabbo School, named for the senator’s father.

“I have been concerned and working on issues relating to the Ozone Park homeless shelter on 101st Avenue since it opened, but we can only address and resolve the issues if we have an open and productive conversation with the NYC Department of Homeless Services and the service provider Lantern, which is forthcoming,” Addabbo said. “There is an in-person Community Advisory Board meeting being organized by the DHS at the behest of myself and the community that will include all of the appropriate parties.”

Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.

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