2021年2月19日 星期五

The Daily: Investigating Abuse in New York’s Homeless Shelters

What a year-long investigation looked like. Plus, how you're listening to The Daily now.

Hi, everyone. It's Friday! For the Americans reading, we hope you enjoyed a short workweek. Our team has been weathering some cold temperatures in our remote offices, and we hope everyone is safe and warm, wherever you are reading.

Last week, we asked you how you've been listening to The Daily lately — and we're featuring a few of your answers below. This week, we're wondering: What's one Daily episode you can't stop thinking about? Let us know, and we might feature you in a future newsletter.

Victor Rivera oversaw the growth of the Bronx Parent Housing Network into a major provider of shelter and services while New York's homeless population climbed to record numbers.Jason Cohen/Bronx Times, via Associated Press

Last Thursday, Amy Julia Harris, an investigative reporter at The Times, told us the story of Victor Rivera, the founder of a network of housing shelters in New York City, who has been accused of sexual and financial misconduct — and of abusing a system meant to help the most vulnerable. Below, Amy Julia takes us behind the scenes of her investigation into Mr. Rivera:

By Amy Julia Harris

In July 2019, I received an anonymous tip that said I should look into the way that Victor Rivera spent money and treated women. So I started making phone calls to former employees of the Bronx Parent Housing Network, the organization Mr. Rivera founded.

Most conversations started the same way: I'd ask open-ended questions about the organization, and people would pretty quickly interrupt me and ask, "Did you hear about Victor Rivera's conduct with women?" People said that the organization had given payments to women who had accused him of sexual misconduct and that he had coerced homeless women in his shelters into sex. But what I really needed were names, documents and firsthand accounts. So I kept making phone calls and kept a list of women's names that had been mentioned to me. I obtained a list of women who used to live in Mr. Rivera's homeless shelters, and I began calling them to ask about their experiences.

Some women were easier than others to find or talk to. One woman who had complained to the city about Mr. Rivera's sexually harassing her in 2017 was eager to talk. But other people were harder to get to open up.


One woman I met teared up as she told me I needed to talk to her friend, Erica Sklar, who she said had been assaulted by Victor Rivera. I asked the friend to introduce me to Erica, and I met the two of them in an apartment in the Bronx. Erica was very nervous, and in our first meeting, we didn't discuss the alleged assault — we just talked about life in New York City and how different it was from California, where we both were from.

A few weeks later, in our next in-person meeting, Erica told me her story: about how she was homeless, entered a Bronx Parent Housing Network shelter in 2012 and met Mr. Rivera. She said he was friendly and warm and one day asked her if she wanted to move into permanent housing in his personal home in the Bronx. Once she was living in his home, she said, he sexually assaulted her in 2016, suggesting he would evict her if she didn't give him oral sex. (In a statement, Mr. Rivera denied any impropriety and called the accusations against him "meritless.")

Erica was tremendously nervous about sharing this secret she had carried around for years. She initially told me she would never go public with her story and wanted to remain anonymous. But I stayed in touch with her, making seven or eight visits to her apartment, and continued to give her updates about my reporting and the other women who claimed they had had similar experiences with sexual harassment or assault. I broached the possibility of her going on the record and sharing her story, and it was an ongoing discussion for months. She was worried about her safety, and about retaliation. But she ultimately agreed. She said she wanted to share her story in the hopes that it would help other people.

And her speaking out had an impact: The day after the story published, Victor Rivera was fired by his homeless organization, and the Bronx district attorney opened a criminal investigation into his conduct.

Talk to Amy Julia on Twitter: @amyjharris


A note from our listeners

By Mahima Chablani and Desiree Ibekwe

Sarah, a listener from North Carolina, has raised hundreds of dollars to provide fresh fruit for her local food bank. Thanks, Sarah!Christopher Brown

Now that the morning commute is, for many of us, nonexistent, we were curious about your new morning routines. So in last week's newsletter, we asked you. This is what we heard:

Birgit from Santa Rosa, Calif., says she runs while listening to the show. "Michael averages about 35 miles a week with me!" she wrote. And Toni from Southeast Texas shared that she often listens while cooking. Last Monday, that meant cooking a dinner of Beyond Meat patties with pea tendril pesto, brioche buns with mozzarella cheese and a side of daikon radish fries.

Also landing in our inbox last week was a message about Sarah Holmes, a listener from North Carolina who, after hearing our episode "A Day at the Food Pantry" last November, started an initiative to donate fresh fruit weekly to her local food bank.


Sarah volunteered at a local food bank and saw "that there was very little fresh food that was being given out, especially fruit." She recalled how Natasha, one of the food pantry clients in the episode, said that ever since her husband had lost his job, they could no longer afford to give fresh fruit to her children.

So Sarah decided to start a GoFundMe page to see if any of her friends and family would help her buy fruit for local families in need. According to her local paper, Sarah has delivered over 200 pounds of fruit.

Got any stories to share? Email us at thedaily@nytimes.com.

On The Daily this week

Tuesday: We spoke to Stacey Plaskett, one of the Democratic impeachment managers, about what former President Trump's trial was like through her eyes.

Wednesday: One of the worst winter storms in decades has plunged Texas into darkness. It could be a glimpse into America's future as climate change intensifies.

Thursday: What the story of Paul Rusesabagina, whose tale was dramatized in the 2004 film "Hotel Rwanda," tells us about the future of Rwanda.

Friday: Many American adults are predicted to be fully vaccinated by the end of this summer, but when will children receive the coronavirus vaccine?

That's it for The Daily newsletter. See you next week.

Have thoughts about the show? Tell us what you think at thedaily@nytimes.com.

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