ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Crystal Lenear has been working at House of Mercy for nearly 30 years, as a security monitor assistant.
She said she’s familiar with Nathaniel Jeanpierre III, the man facing charges for murder.
“He has mental issues, yes, he was going through things, we tried to comfort him and tell him, ‘you don’t have to be afraid here we got your back,'” she said.
She said Jeanpierre would have outbursts at times.
After nearly 30 years of working at the shelter, Lenear said it’s not uncommon for her to feel unsafe at times. Sometimes even threats, in which Lenear will report to administration and head security.
“Someone lately said they were going to burn down the House of Mercy, and I told the director Tammy Butler, who told me to go to the shelter monitor to see what the problem could be, and the man said ‘he’s on drugs,’ but the point is if you’re on drugs you still want to call the FIT team and whoever else can help him,” said Lenear.
Leaner said there is a metal detector at the entrance, and staff do check bags. But, recent issues with staffing have affected nighttime operations.
“We are understaffed at night. Daytime, it’s full of staff. But nighttime, we barely have any people. That’s where we need help at,” she said.
News 8 reached out to the administration with House of Mercy to discuss security concerns, and a recent transition in leadership. We are still awaiting a response.
For the time being, Monroe County is assisting nearly 80 residents who have been displaced. The shelter is closed for the time being, as part of an ongoing investigation.
Residents have been moved to a few different locations, including MLK Park and Salvation Army. Additionally, mental health services and substance abuse services are being provided to residents through the Monroe County Dept. of Human Services.
Lenear said after a traumatic incident like this, staff need all the help they can get too.
“We do need support a lot of support, sometimes we have problems and we bring it to work,” she said.
United Way has reached out to the shelter, offering up their own assistance for trauma and grief support. Jennifer Kathy, Chief Impact Officer with United Way says their work is about connecting agencies who have that expertise to staff who need it.
“We’re still waiting to hear back,” Kathy said. “We know the community wants to help, wrap their arms help around, often times that’s overwhelming for a small agency to accept all of that help.”
She says whenever staff are ready to have these conversations, they want to be prepared.
“Just a safe space to be able to express what they’re feeling, what it was like to observe that, the challenges seeing so many people displaced,” said Kathy.
United Way connects staff to agencies like Coordinated Care Services.
“The agencies are the experts,” said Kathy. “They’re the ones that are most trained, closest to the consumers, individuals, or residents in this case, so we defer to them and their expertise,” she said.
“What’s often overlooked are the staff helping community members everyday,” said Kathy. “And the staff that experience vicarious trauma after trying to support those that are struggling. But often, they go home to their own traumas, maybe a violent neighborhood or struggling to make ends meet, the trauma of poverty.”