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‘This can’t be how I go down:’ Manhattan woman’s homeless battle with encampment sweeps ends in massive stroke

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Sinthia Vee points to her scar while in a Brooklyn nursing home.
Photo by Dean Moses

Homeless Manhattanite Sinthia Vee has been left disabled after suffering a stroke that she believes was brought about by treatment at the hands of officials during and after recent homeless encampment sweeps.

“This can’t be how I go down; I have been through so much in my life,” Vee told amNewYork Metro on Nov. 21.

Sinthia Vee spent the first half of 2022 fighting for homeless rights, pushing back against Mayor Eric Adams’ implemented encampment removals — a practice that became known as the sweeps. Dubbed Anarchy Row by its occupants, Vee lived alongside fellow unhoused individuals inside a small row of tents just outside Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan’s East Village.

She gained media attention alongside encampment leader Johnny Grima on April 6 after a 5-hour-long standoff between the unhoused and the NYPD for failing to take down their makeshift shelter.

Sinthia Vee is overcome with despair on May 4. Photo by Dean Moses

Over the following month, Vee and Grima stood their ground against an onslaught of sweeps that left Grima in cuffs and Vee in tears. The relentless battle came to a head on May 6, after Grima had once again been carried away in cuffs while Vee was left cradling herself and weeping.

Reaching the end of her tether, she accepted placement in a shelter — and one month later, she says she suffered a stroke.

“I started throwing up and they said it was a stroke. They called the ambulance, and they took me to Lincoln Hospital because I was in a shelter in the Bronx and they didn’t give me anything for blood clots, they didn’t test for it,” Vee said pointing to a large scar on her skull. “They put a bone graft in my head.”

Vee underwent several surgeries and has lived in a Brooklyn nursing home since June. Although she also suffered from a blood clot, Vee attributes the sudden stroke to stress levels she faced during the encampment sweeps and while housed in the shelter.

“A lot of stress during the sweeps. And then in the shelter, they kept coming in and looking at me all the time. I didn’t get much sleep at the shelter and I couldn’t get them to give me vegetarian food. It was very stressful,” Vee explained. “They kept coming in at night and checking, they never stopped. The security is ridiculous. They would go through everything, like my balls of yarn. They messed one up where I had to throw it away.”

Unfortunately, as a result of the stroke Vee lost the use of her legs and left arm. While the strength is slowly beginning to return in her legs, allowing her to now be able to stand with the aid of a helper, she fears she has lost the use of her arm forever. This is particularly distressing for her since she was not only left-handed but also an avid artist. 

Sinthia Vee in a Brooklyn nursing home. Photo by Dean Moses

“I feel like it’s such a loss. I love to paint. I’m gonna have to take more art classes so I can learn to draw with my right hand, as it turns out that art is in your muscle memory and you can’t transfer to the other hand,” Vee said.

Although Vee says that her time in the nursing home has been positive and that the staff has treated her well, she also revealed she has been incredibly lonely and sometimes prays for visitors. Still, she said she is proud of herself for standing up to the sweeps and believes that the act of removing encampments and throwing away belongings is violence against homeless people.

“The sweeps is violence. The answer to homelessness is housing, it’s not to treat people like criminals, it’s to build more housing. Not more high end, luxury condominiums,” Vee said, still defiant, even from her hospital bed.

For those wishing to support Vee, she can be contacted through the Instagram account @Tompkinsmutualaid.

amNewYork Metro reached out to DSS for comment and is awaiting a response. 

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