This week, a former Jewish teacher was murdered by a roommate at a NYC homeless shelter. Deven Black, 62, was a teacher and librarian with a college age son.
A Nyack resident, Black had been struggling with mental health issues, which led to homelessness and his residency in the shelter.
“Deven always was a self-learner, someone who was very curious about the world and life,” Emily Feiner, a family friend and Nyack mental health professional, recalled. Feiner described Black as “a good, caring man who went out of his way to try and help others.
He wanted very much to be a person other people saw as trustworthy and compassionate.”
“This is tragic,” family friend DeWitt Rulon stated. “It’s inexplicable. I understand there were issues we became aware of. It’s unfathomable how his life turned out.”
Black’s body was found with multiple stab wounds in the Boulevard Homeless Shelter in Manhattan, near 123 st. in East Harlem. Authorities are still searching for Black’s roommate, Anthony White, 21, who made death threats against several individuals this week after losing his phone, police said.
“Although (my father) had struggled with mental illness for many years, he was unable to get the treatment he needed, and he fell through the cracks of a severely broken system,” Black’s son Jonas wrote on Facebook.
“It is hard not to hate the man who took my father away from me, but ultimately I see my father’s killer as another victim. Had there been adequate mental health infrastructure in place, this tragedy would not have happened.”
Black’s murder prompted an announcement by Mayor de Blasio regarding increased security measures and mental health services at NYC homeless shelters.
“The murder of one of our shelter residents is shocking and disturbing,” de Blasio said. “We must address shelter security with urgency.
Our shelters should be safe environments where homeless people, with and without mental illness, can be treated with respect, become self-sufficient and move to permanent housing.”
To achieve this goal, the de Blasio administration will dispatch mental health teams to DHS shelter intake centers in order to evaluate service/shelter placement needs, additional peace officers providing round-the-clock coverage at homeless shelters, and additional funding to improve mental health services at the shelters. Other measures include doubled drop-in centers, to bring people from the streets into shelters, and a total of 750 beds for homeless youth, tripling the current amount.