Death of 4-year-old boy reveals rat-infested, city-funded homeless shelter – New York Daily News


Shannon Nelson heard the bang on her door about 3 p.m. Sunday.


Migdalia Morales, 34, from across the hall, was at her door with four of her five kids, all under 10 years old.


“She told me her little boy Juan was really sick,” Nelson recalled on Thursday afternoon, standing in the spring sunshine outside the apartment building at 976 Tinton Ave. in the Bronx. “She asked, could I watch the four kids. I says, sure. I took them in.”


“Little Juan was on the floor in the hallway,” says Shannon Nelson’s daughter, Nashasia, 21. “Turning all kinda colors. He looked bad. Real bad.”


Still, no one immediately feared the worst.


“We didn’t know he was dying,” said Shannon Nelson, who like Morales was placed in the rat-infested multiple dwelling by the Department of Homeless Services. “She said she wanted to get Juan to the hospital. I took her other kids in and sat them in front of my TV and gave them chips and cookies and put on ‘All Dogs Go to Heaven.’ ”


Were they upset?


“No, they were just kids,” Shannon Nelson said. “They ate and watched the TV and they were fine. They always play with my kids. I’m not close friends with their mom, but the kids live across the hall, so they’re friends. Next day we learned the boy died from rat poison.”


She shook her head in a sad way.



“It’s the rats,” she says, widening her hands. “I have a rat that’s 18 inches long. He comes out of the walls and goes in my garbage bag every night.”


What do you do about it?


“I throw shoes at them,” she says. “What do you think? But I refuse to get the rat poison because I have a 7-year-old and a 14-month-old in my apartment. I let the exterminator spray for the roaches last Thursday. If you let them do that, they give you a choice of glue rat traps or rat poison. I take the glue traps. I already lost one baby to SIDS. I’m afraid of the little ones eating the rat poison.”


These are the choices you have when you have seven kids and a husband who is incarcerated and you live in a rat trap used as a shelter by the city’s DHS that had rent-a-cops from Millennium Security barring the press from entering the building on Thursday. If you choose rat poison, your kid winds up turning all kinds of colors and foaming at the mouth until he is pronounced dead in Lincoln Hospital.


“Everybody in this building has a cat,” says Shannon Nelson. “I hope the smell of my cat Say-Say keeps the rats away. But my rat comes anyway. I would love just once for the mayor to come spend the night here. He’ll see why that boy died from rat poisoning.”


Allison Walker, 42, lives in apartment 50 and says she used to let Migdalia Morales use her Nebulizer.


“I’m asthmatic and so is she,” she says. “I used to see her with all her kids. The older ones were into mischief sometimes but she kept a firm grip on the younger ones. But I’d see her panting, gasping for air and I’d give her my pump and my medicine so she could climb those four flights.”


Walker says she also has rats, and although the building has a no-pets policy, she keeps a cat to protect her from rats.


“He’s a big orange and white mama jamma that looks just like Garfield,” she says. “I told the super I had a rat. He said he wasn’t gonna do nothing about that. The exterminator wouldn’t give me rat traps because I wouldn’t let him spray because I’m asthmatic. And the spray can hurt the baby. And the cat. And you gotta have a cat for the rats.”


And that’s life in a rat trap.


She says a rat recently ran into one of her suitcases she once used to carry possessions between homeless shelters.


“My nephew and my son zipped it right up and I told them to run it down to the super’s door,” she says. “They had a shovel and a bat. I had me a big, mean 2-by-4. They emptied that rat out the suitcase in front of the super’s door.”


She said the two men ran off screaming, as the rat ran in circles.


“The men acted like girls,” she said, laughing. “I charged it and whammed on that mama jamma till I killed it in front of the super’s door.”


Rat poison put out for the rats and mice found its way into the 4-year-old mouth of Juan Sanchez, whose mother has been investigated 11 times by the Administration for Children’s Services since 2003. Six times since Juan’s birth in 2009.


“I know we’re homeless and nobody really cares,” said Allison Watkins. “But I’d love to have Mayor de Blasio over for dinner. I’ll cook him some soul food. He can eat with us and wait for the rats to come out to eat, too. I’m not trying to be mean. I just want him to know what it’s like to live in a hell hole like this that the city is paying top dollar for. Now I know I might be asked to move for daring to speak out, but why does it take the death of a little boy for anyone to pay attention to how homeless families in this city live?”


Shannon Nelson said Morales’ other four kids stayed with her on Sunday for about 20 minutes until the police arrived to take them into custody.


Were the kids traumatized by that?


“Not at all,” she said. “They were all boys. They loved getting into a shiny police car with a big loud siren. They didn’t know their brother was gonna die the next day from the rat poison.”


Death of 4-year-old boy reveals rat-infested, city-funded homeless shelter – New York Daily News
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