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Miami Homeless Shelter 'Infested' With Bed Bugs

The Chapman Partnership houses 500 people at its homeless shelter in downtown Miami.

In recent days, several clients living at the shelter have come forward to complain about what they call a prolific bed bug infestation.

Yoanne Eduardo, a resident at the shelter, rolled up her jeans to reveal three large red bumps on her right leg. She also has similar bumps on her back.

“I have marks all over my body,” she said. “I got them since I been there. It’s constantly itching.”

Eduardo lives at the shelter with her 9-year-old son and month-old baby.

She says she’s unable to bond with her newborn the way she wants to. With bed bugs making regular appearances, she can’t place him on her bed to cuddle or admire his tiny toes.

“I’m scared he’s gonna get bit and he can end up in the hospital,” she said.

At night, the baby sleeps in a rocking swing, not his crib.  Eduardo explains the swing has few crevices where bed bugs could hide, and she’s hoping the slight motion will be a deterrent for the critters.

Alec Rosen,  marketing director at Chapman Partnership, said the shelter does have a problem with bed bugs and that it’s taking active steps to fix it.   

“The complaints started several months ago and we immediately took action by treating and fumigation,” he said.  “This is not an easy problem to eradicate.”

On a recent afternoon, eight clients from the homeless shelter gathered at the Miami Workers Center in Liberty City to share their stories.

About 43 percent of  the homeless clients at Chapman Partnership are  families with children.

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Credit Nadege Green / WLRN
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WLRN
This child who lives at the Chapman Partnership downtown homeless shelter has bed bug bites on her stomach and arms, according to her mother. She also believes her daughter's itchy scalp is a result of bed bug bites.

Dawn White lives in the shelter with her two kids—a 1 year old and a 4-month old.

“The bed bugs,  they’re crucial. My daughter wakes up screaming in the middle of the night because she’s getting bit,” said White. “I catch them on her. I catch them in her hair.”

In the middle of the conversation, a slight commotion broke out.

Antonio Vigil, who also lives at the homeless shelter, had what appeared to be a bed bug crawling on his arm.

Someone shouted, “Kill it! Kill it now!”

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Credit Nadege Green / WLRN
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WLRN
During a discussion about the living conditions at the Chapman Partnership homeless shelter in downtown Miami, Antonio Vigil brushed off what appears to be a bed bug crawling on his arm.

Vigil squashed the critter with his hand.

A day after meeting with the shelter’s clients, Chapman Partnership invited WLRN to take a tour of its downtown campus.  A reporter was shown a medical clinic, the cafeteria and a newly renovated women’s dorm room.

The dorm room was outfitted with bed bug resistant furniture and bedding, according to Rosen, the marketing director.

He said eventually every dorm would get a similar renovation—including the dorms at the shelter's Homestead campus, though Rosen says he’s not gotten any complaints about bed bugs there.

But some of the homeless clients at the downtown shelter say it’s not just the bed bugs.

Diana Perrin lives at the downtown campus with her year-old son who has asthma.

“In my room I have a leak and mold,” she said.  “Every time I tell them to fix it they refuse to fix it. “

Perrin said she thinks the room is making her son’s condition worst.

Rosen said Chapman Partnership takes all clients’ complaints seriously and addresses them in a timely manner.

The partnership has set aside nearly  $1 million in capital improvements this year, which include a new roof for the 20-year old downtown shelter.

Rosen said  he encourages residents to speak to management or their caseworkers about any concerns.

People have the right to express their opinion,” said Rosen. “And if they feel they’re not being treated properly, or we’re not addressing their needs, they have the right to speak out.”