This is exciting news: a group of community activists in Vancouver are fighting for the city to pay for bed bug treatment and education, the CBC news reports today.
The article reports that,
Community activists in Vancouver are calling on the city to pay for an expanded bedbug program following an initial effort that targeted two rooming hotels in the Downtown Eastside.
Anne O’Neil and Ann Livingston of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users managed to get $51,000 in government funding last summer to target the bug problem at two hotels.
O’Neil, who supervised the project, said that some of the rooms had been overrun by the insects.
“In some of the rooms we were seeing them crawling around on the walls, on curtains, and so it was a really heavy infestation here, they were dropping from the ceiling. It was quite horrible.”
The rooms were treated twice and beds and wooden furniture were replaced.
The city commissioned a report that said more than 1/2 of the rooms were bed bug free 2 months later. (You can download a PDF of the comprehensive report by clicking here.) The city calls that a “success.” (As much as I think they should have done more than two treatments, I have to admit that considering statistics from the University of Massachusets say most infestations require 3 or more treatments, they did not do too badly. Nevertheless, unless the rooms that were cleared of bed bugs are all in the same building, the bed bugs are likely to spread throughout each 1/2-treated building once more.)
But, thankfully, these activists are aiming higher:
“You really need to create a system whereby you can knock on the door, get a room prepped, get the spray guys in and come back in 10 days and do it again,” said Livingston.
“And then, the real project is to not have people pulling bedbug-infested garbage out of the alley into another place. This creates constant reinfection. So that’s why it needs to be a neighbourhood campaign.”
Livingstone said bedbugs are a growing problem everywhere in Vancouver, and trying to get rid of them in the city’s poorest neighbourhood is money well spent.
This reinfestation pattern–caused when people don’t know not to bring things in off the street–is happening everywhere. Parakeets has told us it happened in her building. How can people live in a building that’s being treated for bed bugs and not know that dumpster diving is a bad idea?!?
I hope Livingston and O’Neill are able to expand their program. And I hope community service agencies elsewhere will also help. There’s a real problem of people not being able to get rid of bed bugs because they have trouble paying for treatment. Some folks simply need assistance with physically preparing for treatment.
In Boston, the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation (ABCDC) was able to help coordinate the placing of bed bug warning stickers on discarded furniture on the busiest moving day of the year in Boston (Sept. 1, 2004). This is described in a previous post. The ABCDC also–via government and corporate funding– arranged grants to pay for treatment costs for those for whom the costs are prohibitive.
Much more needs to be done, in every city where bed bugs are spreading. We need to help everyone get rid of bed bugs, as soon as possible. And we need to educate everyone about bed bugs, the signs, how they’re transmitted, etc. I think governments should be funding the eradication of what is a low-scale natural disaster (and one which disproportionately affects the poor, though it can be a hardship to those in higher economic brackets as well).
When it comes to bed bugs, we’re all connected.