Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Tarentum Shelter Residents Evicted Director Says Staff Assaulted, Threatened

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Tarentum Shelter Residents Evicted Director Says Staff Assaulted, Threatened

Article excerpt

After staffers at a Tarentum domestic violence shelter were repeatedly assaulted and threatened by residents over a period of five days in a "collective disturbance," the shelter's director, Michelle Bond, said Wednesday she had no choice but to evict all of its residents.

In what she and other domestic violence experts described as an unprecedented action, six women and seven children were escorted out of the Alle-Kiski Area Hope Center on Tuesday night after a highly charged house meeting in which two staffers were assaulted.

"The threats made were lethal in nature and with specific intent," Ms. Bond said. "It became a collective disturbance."

In her 10 years of running the Hope Center, "I have never seen anything spiral out of control so quickly. It became impossible for us to resolve the issues. It was a perfect storm of emotion," she added.

There are only three reasons a resident is ever evicted from the Hope Center -- substance use, weapons or the threat of violence -- said Ms. Bond, noting that no residents had guns or drugs. It took three hours to remove the residents, who caused $10,000 worth of damage to the facility before leaving. The damage included shattered glass, urine on the floor, broken blinds and light bulbs and a lit cigarette near a shower curtain, which caught fire.

The New Hope Center offers a 30-day emergency shelter along with transitional housing, education, legal assistance and counseling, and is still open, although not fully operational.

Ms. Bond said she expected two rooms would be occupied as of Wednesday night.

Tensions at the shelter began to build Friday, when one resident spit on and assaulted a staff member, and culminated at Tuesday's house meeting, which became so volatile that a staffer pushed a "panic button" at the center to alert Tarentum police.

Ms. Bond declined to press charges, citing the trauma that these women had already experienced, and noted that she had given all the residents a list of other shelters and bus tickets to those destinations. …

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