Brown student wants to provide free bed bug treatment to those who can’t pay

by nobugsonme on February 27, 2008 · 9 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs

This article from the Brown Daily Herald at Brown University describes what some in Providence are doing about bed bugs. And what one student would like to do to help those suffering from bed bugs.

In the last few years, bed bugs have been making their way into Providence homes, with little official response. But on Jan. 16, the Rhode Island Department of Health ran its first training session about how to handle the pesky critters. More than 100 people were in attendance, including landlords, students and employees at homeless shelters, according to Dhitinut Ratnapradipa, program manager for the Health Department and a Brown clinical assistant professor of community health.

The Health Department is organizing some meetings for people concerned and wanting to know more about the problem. But the health dept. does not provide pest control services.

Luckily, Brown student Samantha Marder was tuned in to the problem: how do poor people fight bed bugs, especially in Rhode Island, where if only one unit is infested, the tenant is responsible for treatment?

“It was clear that there was no concerted, organized group in Rhode Island that would be taking charge of this,” said Samantha Marder ’09, who attended the training session.

Marder first heard about Providence’s problem with bed bugs over the summer when volunteering at Hasbro Children’s Hospital at Project HEALTH’s Family Help Desk, which assists low-income families with housing, food, employment and other issues affecting their health.

A volunteer at the Family Help Desk since her freshman year, Marder said until this past summer, the organization had encountered many of the problems that come with low-income housing, like cockroaches, rodents and lead poisoning – but not bed bugs.

Marder not only gets the problem, but she has a good idea how to help.

Marder has an idea for a “low-cost team of exterminators,” possibly staffed by student volunteers.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management runs a program in extermination that requires only 24 hours of training, Marder said.

Marder said she wants to create an organization that would cover the cost of extermination even if the tenant is not able to immediately pay. The group would wait to be reimbursed after finishing legal proceedings to hold the landlord accountable, recognizing that they might not ever be reimbursed, Marder said.

The problem with the Rhode Island policy on who pays for treatment is that if a unit is (apparently) the only one infested, the tenant may wait forever to treat. They may have no money, and they may simply wait until they’re not the only infested unit, so the landlord becomes responsible.

This isn’t good for the tenant, the neighbors, or the landlord, financially or otherwise. From a purely practical standpoint, it is a bad rule. Unfortunately, Rhode Island isn’t the only place with such a law. (Many areas of Canada, for example, have similar rules regarding tenants and pests.)

Marder said most families just move out – only for another family to move into the same, bed bug-infested housing.

“A lot of the landlords have little income themselves and want to help but can’t,” Marder said.

Marder’s idea is still in the thinking stage, but I think a non-profit bed bug pest control service is a great idea under the circumstances, assuming issues like liability can be sorted out.

It is unfortunate when non-profits have to provide services that (in my opinion, at least) the government should be ensuring people have access to, but in the short term, it helps solve a serious problem.

1 smarder February 27, 2008 at 9:14 pm

Hi! Thank you so much for publicizing this and for all of the support on the forum! Pm me if you like. I’m interested in everything related to the intersection of healthy and affordable housing!

-Samantha Marder

2 nobugsonme February 27, 2008 at 10:48 pm

Just a note to anyone who reads the blog but does not use the forums, you can PM (private message) Samantha by registering for our website (register link above right) or logging in and then going to the forums (forums button above right). The PM link for registered users is:

3 brown student mom April 13, 2008 at 5:47 pm

does any care that my child who’s a student at brown has bed bugs, been moved twice and still has them!!!!!…supposedly they brought in the expert, who stated that his books would not be affected..what a joke..–they are giving him incorrect information, no wonder he still has them.. my child called to say his books were covered….!–brown people should concentrate efforts in own backyard…

4 nobugsonme April 13, 2008 at 7:54 pm

HI brown student mom,

Bed bugs are a problem at colleges around the country.

Is your child living in Brown student housing? If so, it should be easier for you to pressure someone in university administration to deal with this properly. After all, you and your child are customers and the university has a responsibility to you.

In many cases, books are not affected. If they are covered with bed bugs as you state, then the Pest Control Operator should be advising you. PCOs are just like any businesses, and sometimes you need to talk to the manager if things aren’t being taken care of in your mind. However, it will likely take 3+ treatments spaced 2 weeks apart, so the most important thing is to persist.

Finally, re: your last comment: the article is about a Brown student who wants to help people get proper bed bug treatment. Having interacted with her briefly online, I was impressed with her good intentions, and I doubt she would exclude her fellow students who needed help! However, as far as I know, her plan is not being enacted yet.

5 brown student mom April 13, 2008 at 8:37 pm

kudos to anyone who battles the war on beg bugs….school took immediate action to remove student from situation (2x)…but as u know, if you’ve have/had the bugs, u know what to do/and what should be done….thanks…

6 brown student mom April 13, 2008 at 8:40 pm

Further action…, rooms were exterminated, and will be done another 2 times, plus he was told to dry his clothes and school would reimburse..

7 nobugsonme April 14, 2008 at 1:01 am

HI brown student mom,

That does not sound too bad. Please come to the forums if you’d like to discuss this further or need feedback!

8 Regina October 17, 2008 at 7:44 pm

hello my family is being attacked by bedbugs and i don’t have enough money to buy the product.I was wanting your help please.!!!and i cant find it around here in my town..

9 nobugsonme October 18, 2008 at 6:59 pm


We don’t know which product you’re talking about.

If you tell us where you are, we might have some suggestions. Depending on whether you rent or own your home, the landlord may be responsible for treating.

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