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.