Homeless families with babies were forced to live in “shameful” conditions at city shelters, including vermin infestations, exposed electrical outlets, and mold and mildew, according to a scathing audit released Monday by city Comptroller Scott Stringer.
The deplorable living quarters for some of New York’s most vulnerable were uncovered in a recent random review of 13 shelters — all of which were found to have at least one health or safety violation.
A staggering 92 percent of the 91 individual units toured within those shelters had at least one violation, and 32 units across 11 shelters had a minimum of four violations.
“As a parent, I find the conditions we uncovered shameful, distressing and unacceptable,” said Stringer, a 2021 mayoral candidate. “It is a stain on this city that babies in our care are sleeping alongside vermin, breathing in mold and mildew, and playing near live electrical outlets.”
A total of 264 deficiencies were tallied, also including missing or broken window guards, and shoddy or poorly-placed cribs, according to the audit.
Stomach-turning photos released in conjunction with the report show vermin droppings and live roaches, a crib placed directly next to an electrical outlet and an exposed, jagged hole in the wall of one unit.
According to the city Department of Homeless Services’ own statistics, Stringer notes, approximately 50 infants die every year across New York City from preventable, sleep-related injuries.
Stringer, who has taken DHS to task in the past over shelter conditions, called on the agency to take a series of steps to better provide for the young families in their care.
They include: inspecting and correcting conditions in the 13 randomly-sampled shelters; ensuring that they perform required weekly inspections of conditions and properly document their findings; and establishing and enforcing consequences for violations of infant-safety policies.
In a statement, a DHS spokesman accused Stringer’s report of “sensationalism,” and defended the agency’s record.
“There is no higher priority than the health, wellbeing, and safety of the New Yorkers we serve — particularly the youngest New Yorkers,” said Isaac McGinn in part.
“We and our extraordinary staff, who’ve made important progress uplifting families experiencing homelessness and helping them get back on their feet, remain focused on actually doing the work continue and recommit ourselves to preventing all such preventable deaths, as we have been doing.”