BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Cheryl Debose is a tenant at the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority’s Frederick Douglass apartments, but Debose has not actually slept in her townhouse for three months.
Debose is staying with her daughter Erica Smith in Erica’s apartment at the Douglass homes, because she says her apartment makes her sick, causing symptoms that resemble an allergic reaction.
“When I go in there I start wheezing and coughing, and I get very short of breath.”
The Buffalo grandmother said her problems started after the BMHA remodeled her townhouse and she moved back into the unit in February. Debose said the apartment gives off an odor, but she has no idea what is causing it.
“It is a smell that I can’t really describe. It is just strong and they haven’t gotten rid of it yet. It is like a moist smell, it will bring tears to your eyes.”
Smith’s apartment was also remodeled at about the same time, but Debose has felt no ill effects staying with her daughter.
In fact, BMHA Executive Director Gilliam Brown said, both units were remodeled the same way, by the same contractor, with specific materials to minimize health effects, such as low volatile organic chemical (VOC) paint.
“Same adhesive for the floor, same building materials, same insulation, same low VOC paint. There are no dfferences.”
Brown said he is also baffled by the Debose’s condition, which has caused her to be hospitalized, and her doctor has confirmed Debose illness.
The BMHA even hired an environmental lab to test the air in Debose’s apartment, and their findings all came out negative.
Brown does wonder about cleaning supplies they found in Debose’s apartment that could have an effect on her heart and lungs.
“There are other chemicals that do not appear to be friendly to people with breathing issues in her kitchen cupboards.That is really the only variable.”
Debose has been hospitalized for a total of more than 40 days since she moved back into her townhouse, and the dispute may be reaching a head soon. Debose has not paid rent in at least three months and the BMHA is demanding payment.