'Clients' Menace Social Workers

Posted: February 12, 1986

Linda Solomon was not the only person late for work yesterday morning

because of snow, but she probably caught more flak than anyone else.

Solomon, a social worker at the city's Adult Services Center, which places homeless people in shelters, said a client who felt he had waited too long for an interview became enraged, jumped on her desk, threatened to beat her up and then left the building - but not before throwing a brick through the front door glass.

It was not an unusual occurrence. Placement center employees say they call the police about a dozen times a day because of unruly clients.

Solomon, 31, and other employees protested yesterday outside the center on Cherry Street near 13th, calling for police protection.

"Clients and workers have been threatened with knives or guns," said Carol Rosenblat, president of Local 2187 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents the center's 110 employees.

"It happens regularly," she said.

Rosenblat said that since the center opened a year ago employees and people seeking shelter placement have been exposed to clients who are irrational,

violent and armed.

"On a daily basis there are 12 calls to the police for help," Rosenblat said.

She said there are two security guards on duty in the center around the clock, but they are outnumbered and unarmed.

Rosenblat said clients have brought weapons into the building ranging from knives and guns to poles from street signs, sticks and even the top of a fire hydrant attached to a chain.

Irene F. Pernsley, commissioner of public welfare, said, "Because many of the people who do have shelter needs are also frustrated and angry, some are mentally ill, some are alcoholics and some are drug addicts, they are a potential danger to themselves and to other clients and to the staff.

"I would say that what we need is a way of protecting staff and other clients. One way could be to have continuous police presence."

City officials said police from the 6th District, located nearby at 11th and Winter streets, have increased patrols in the area and are studying ways to provide more security.

Solomon said the patrols are not working. She said she had to call police twice yesterday morning when the angry man berated her and threw the brick through the window. Then, she said, it took officers 13 minutes to respond.

"By the time they got here, the client was arrested at Broad and Arch after putting a brick through the window of a car," she said.

"We want on-site police protection," Rosenblat said.

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