So many bad bedbug-fighting practices, so little time

by nobugsonme on October 28, 2006 · 2 comments

in activism, bed bug treatment, bed bugs, homelessness, how to avoid bed bugs, how to get rid of bed bugs

Public officials make so many mistakes when it comes to bedbugs, that Bedbugger almost can’t keep up.

Today, an article in the Rhode Island News provides just one example. A Cranston, RI shelter was so infested that 70 residents and housing advocates marched to the State House, seeking the Governor’s help. (You need a login, which takes a minute, but I will quote the most relevant bits below.)

For the third time in six months, a team of exterminators on Monday visited the state’s Welcome Arnold shelter in Cranston in an attempt to eradicate a persistent bedbug problem that has been plaguing the shelter’s homeless residents.

The bedbug infestation had emerged as one of the chief complaints of a group of 70 shelter residents and other housing advocates who marched to the State House last week in an attempt to get the attention of Governor Carcieri and get him to do something about the conditions at Welcome Arnold.

At that session, Noreen Shawcross, the state’s chief of housing and community development, and Clark Greene, the governor’s chief policy aide, promised the People to End Homelessness that a team of exterminators would be at the site as early as Monday. Also promised were new mattress covers to make the mattresses “bedbug proof.”

Dennis M. Langley, the executive director of the Urban League of Rhode Island, the agency contracted by the state to oversee the operation of the shelter on a day-to-day basis, said he believes that the exterminators did what was asked, but “I would not be telling the truth if I said it has been completely solved. This is a difficult group of insects to get rid of.”

So on the one hand, they believed mattress covers would make the mattresses bedbug proof (well, the mattresses, at least would not be a source of bites). They also realized they needed new mattresses, though only in those cases of obvious damage and disrepair. And they realized the difficulty of fighting bedbugs. And nonetheless…

Langley said that in keeping with another promise to the homeless residents, the shelter has purchased 100 used mattresses to replace those that are cracked or that have stuffing falling out. Twenty-six mattresses, acquired from the Donation Exchange, were installed yesterday, and 75 others, purchased from a nursing home, should arrive soon, he said. Some 250 mattress covers have been purchased but have not arrived.

Everything in that last paragraph is so wrong, so very wrong.

Let me get this straight: you realize the mattresses may be the cause of bedbug problems (and I am sure they are infested, though other parts of the room are doubtlessly also infested). So you buy 100 used mattresses? Used mattresses are a notorious source of bedbugs, and you cannot necessarily see the infestation.

And then, adding another layer of stupidity, you install 26 of those before the mattress covers are available? Thereby potentially spreading more bedbugs around?


Are you people not listening? Used mattresses are a huge source of bedbug infestations. I would never take on a used mattress, having seen the damage that bedbugs can do. And I certainly would not bring one in without a sealed cover.

And if these are standard vinyl covers, they’re easy to puncture (another reason not to take on used mattresses and try and cover them.)

I realize the shelter has little in the way of funds. But that is wrong! The State of Rhode Island is not doing itself any favors by skimping on attempts to eradicate a bedbug problem. Homeless people with bedbugs in their clothing and in their posessions are riding around on your public transportation system, sitting on your park benches, reading in your libraries, and if they’re lucky enough to come across some money that day, drinking coffee in your resaurants and seeking shelter in your movie theaters.

If compassion for your fellow human beings who have fallen on hard times does not motivate you to agressively treat their bedbug problems, and fund this to the necessary degree, their bedbug problems will spread to you. It’s not an if, it’s a when.*

*I hesitate to warn people of this, because it sounds like I think bedbugs are spread by homeless people.

Let me be clear: bedbugs are spread by everyone: homeless people, truck drivers, hipsters, and Ralph Lauren designers.

Bedbugs are spread by people, period.

In this case, however, they will be spread by people who do not have the resources to properly treat them and to try and prevent spreading them. And so in this case, it is everyone’s fault.

Shame on the State of Rhode Island! Shame on all of us for not seeing the problems of homeless people as our problems.

In this case, sadly, they soon will be.

1 Radical Solutions, LLC June 2, 2008 at 8:56 pm

It is no better in New York. We own certified canines that have been trained at the Florida Academy to sniff out bedbugs…NO MATTER WHERE THEY ARE HIDING!!!. A dog’s nose is so much more sensitive and believe me as a handler I can verify that they find them in clock radios, radiators, T.V.’s, computers….I am also a shelter administrator and got tired of seeing the mothers and children come downstairs with bedbug bites after they pest control exterminators called themselves getting rid of the problem. They mainly treated the bed areas and I can tell you firsthand they did not find them like the dogs did!!!!!!

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