Widow of asylum seeker who took his own life begs NYC shelters to take mental health more seriously

NEW YORK — The wife of a Venezuelan asylum seeker who died by apparently taking…

NEW YORK — The wife of a Venezuelan asylum seeker who died by apparently taking his own life spoke out 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 again called to a Long Island City hotel-turned-shelter, where earlier this month a 26-year-old man reportedly took his life inside a room he shared with his wife and 3-year-old daughter.

Three more of their children remain in Venezuela with relatives.

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The asylum seeker’s young widow was at a news conference to address the city’s urgent need to boost mental health resources in shelters.

“He was like a truck driver,” family friend Janet Cardi said, translating. “The pressures were just too overwhelming for him.”

Cardi posted on GoFundMe a 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 have given her so far,” Cardi said.

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The family’s four months of being in the U.S. were described as a lonely nightmare in a shelter they said felt like jail.

“She wants to continue to keep her family together,” Cardi said.

Wanting answers from shelter staff were New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and City Councilmember Julie Won, who found their way blocked.

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As a resident was let in, Williams made a move to get in. CBS2 was kept outside while the public advocate had a brief discussion inside with the shelter’s manager.

“We still have a lot of questions that weren’t answered. They’re refusing to answer questions,” Williams said. “I don’t see the issue by itself getting easier because we’re getting more and more asylum seekers who are coming up.”

“When I asked them questions about how many people speak Spanish, they can’t tell me,” Won said.

Won and Williams said the next step is to contact the Department of Social Services Commissioner Gary Jenkins and make him aware of what’s going on and conduct an investigation.

The shelter manager declined to talk on camera or provide CBS2 with a statement.