City denies woman's claims of bedbugs at homeless shelter in Mott Haven

New York Daily News
Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Bronx mother is claiming her family got a creepy crawly surprise last week at a borough homeless shelter - bedbugs.

But the Department of Homeless Services declared the shelter is bedbug-free and is accusing Sharon Stoves, 27, of lying to manipulate the system.

Stoves and her three daughters spent about a year at a shelter near Yankee Stadium before moving last Friday to Jackson Avenue Family Residence, a shelter on E. 138th St. in Mott Haven.

Other residents insist the building is clean and well-run.

Stoves claims she woke up early Saturday to an attack by razor-toothed bedbugs, and even has a plastic cup of the critters that she claims she collected before fleeing the unit.

"There were bedbugs on me," she said. "I grabbed the kids and there was a bedbug on my daughter's ear."

They spent the rest of the night with the girls' father.

Stoves demanded a transfer from DHS. The agency sent an exterminator to inspect her unit, and found no trace of bedbugs and Stoves was told to return, said Heather Janik, a DHS spokeswoman.

"Bedbugs are a serious problem throughout the city and we are addressing this as such," Janik said. "The unit was aggressively treated by an expert contractor and no bedbugs were found."

Stoves claims she and her daughters were bitten, but DHS found no signs of bedbug bites.

Jackson residents Armando Troche, 29, and Mary Santiago, 57, said Tuesday their units are bedbug-free.

According to Janik, "Ms. Stoves' false claims and demands to be relocated are rooted in avoiding shelter compliance and moving herself and her children towards self-sufficiency."

The average cost of housing a family in the shelter system is $3,000 per month.

On Saturday, Stoves - who is unemployed - refused to return to Jackson.

"They wanted to send me back to the same shelter with the bedbugs," she said. "I was grossed out and disgusted."

On Monday, Stoves again demanded a transfer and DHS moved the family to a shelter on Sherman Ave. near E. 167th St.

Bedbug panic gripped the city last year, following sightings at hotels and SoHo clothing stores.

The shelter system is no different, said Patrick Markee, spokesman at Coalition for the Homeless, a watchdog group that has documented bedbug infestations in several city shelters.

But DHS has taken steps to prevent the city's bedbug problem from affecting the shelter system, said Janik.

City Department of Housing Preservation and Development records show that a bedbug complaint was filed at Jackson on June 24.