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Migrant mom dies by suicide in NY shelter after staff called her a 'bad mother' for leaving her children unattended

A close friend of the mother-of-two revealed that she was harassed by the shelter employees just a day before she hanged herself
(Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)

Trigger warning: The article contains information about suicide that some people may find traumatic. Discretion is advised.

QUEENS, NEW YORK CITY: A Colombian mother killed herself by suicide at a New York City homeless shelter on Sunday, September 18, after being bullied and called a ‘bad mother’ by staff at the shelter house.

Leydy Paola Martinez Billalobos, a migrant from Bogotá, was living at Hollis Family Shelter in Queens with her 15-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter since May. As per a report by New York Post, the 32-year-old mother was found hanging on a shower road with an electrical cord in their room in the shelter. The mother of two left no suicide note behind.

The woman and her kids came from Colombia and arrived in the city last May, while her husband was separated from the rest of the family at the border and failed repeatedly to get into the US.


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Billalobos was first found by her teenage son, Kevin Billalobos, who was searching for her in the whole house. The teenage boy and his sister are currently living at a hotel with a close friend of their mother. It is unclear whether they will be sent back to Bogota to live with their father. The devastated boy told deputies that the death of his mother was his ‘fault’ and she was the ‘perfect’ mother.

However, a close friend of Leydy revealed that she was stressed and was harassed by the shelter employees just a day before she hanged herself. Her friend, whose name was not revealed because of security reasons, said she and Leydy were struggling to find a proper job in NYC as they didn’t have their working papers with them. Eventually, Leydy got a job cleaning at someone’s residence. Due to her job, Billalobos had to leave her kids unattended, which was apparently against the shelter rules. As per the shelter rules, children under 18 can’t be left unattended.

When some of the staffers found out what she had done they "made her feel bad and called her a bad mother", the friend of the deceased told Univision/Noticias 41 on Tuesday, September 20. "She went out to clean house to feed her kids," the friend said, adding, "A lot of the women are a little depressed because of the childcare and because of the rules and regulations at the shelter."

On the other hand, Leydey’s husband, John Bernal, said she was stressed and overwhelmed as she was living alone with her children in a completely strange city. "I had advised her to be patient," he said. "She was desperate because I hadn't been able to get there. I tried three times but I couldn't."

Colombian authorities are currently in the process of bringing the body of Billalobos to her homeland, the news outlet said.

Another woman, who lives at the family shelter with her husband and two children - ages 9 and 14, said "some of the workers treat the mothers very badly." A third woman at the shelter named Sandra Padera backed Billalobos’ friend’s claims and said some of the staffers are 'racist,' particularly toward migrants from Central and South America.

Responding to the tragic death, Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement, "The thousands of asylum seekers we have seen arrive in our city came to this country seeking a better life, Sadly, though, yesterday, an asylum seeker in one of our facilities took her own life." The mayor added the death "is a reminder that we have an obligation to do everything in our power to help those in need."

The shelter home is yet to respond to the claims made by Billalobos' friend