Little Lyric Laboy was 15-months-old when she was found huddled under a bed just a few feet away from the dead body of her mum, Shelbi Westlake, 26, at the East River Family Center in Manhattan, New York.
The infant was “covered in human faeces”, suffering with severe dehydration and needed urgent hospital treatment when she was finally rescued, the New York Post reports.
The youngster also had a “horrific” diaper rash which hasn’t yet healed six months after the July 2021 ordeal.
Her dad Quraan Laboy, 31, is now suing the state’s Department of Homeless Services for $5million in damages.
He said: “I don’t know how long she will suffer with this. She has a lot of separation anxiety.”
Lyric’s mum, Shelbi Westlake, reportedly died from an accidental overdose
The little girl lost seven pounds through the harrowing ordeal and has been left severely traumatised.
Laboy’s lawyer, Seth Harris, says Lyric has been “slapping her dad while he’s sleeping to make sure he’s alive”.
The homelessness department has denied the youngster was left alone for five days, but did not provide details on how long she was left.
They told the New York Post the incident is under investigation and has already sparked changes in the way they work.
The shelter now conducts same-night wellness checks for residents who fail to sign the evening register, they say.
Shelbi – who was separated from dad Quraan – had moved into an apartment-like unit at the homeless shelter around three or four months before her death, according to documents filed at Manhattan’s Supreme Court.
It wasn’t until a resident in a neighbouring unit smelled a “foul odour” coming from Shelbi’s room that the alarm was raised, legal papers say.
Another lawyer for Laboy, Allison Keenan, claims the mum’s last sign-in date at the shelter was six days before her body was discovered.
Harris told the New York Post: “It’s amazing that she’s alive.”
Keenan said: “Allowing an infant to remain with her dead mother for five days unnoticed not only highlights the indifference and lack of humanity shown to those most in need but exhibits complete malfeasance by the City of New York and Department of Homeless Services.
Lyric is now in a far better physical condition after regaining all the weight she initially lost.
But Quraan says she still cries out for her mum nearly every night.
“She always wakes up in the middle of the night, she’s kicking, she’s fighting, saying, ‘Mommy,’ I look at her and I just start tearing up sometimes,” he said.
Quraan has left his job to take care of his daughter – who is his “number one priority” now.
He added: “My daughter’s gotta [sic] deal with this mentally for the rest of her life.”