Back in March, we read that some public housing tenants of Surrey, British Columbia were suffering from bed bugs. (At the time, CTV said Resident Bill MacLeod’s apartment was “crawling” with bed bugs even after nine professional spray treatments, and that this tenant was “covered” in bed bug bites.)
Eight months later, the same complex (high-rise Ted Kuhn Tower at 13350 Old Yale Road) is still infested. This article from Surrey Now says,
[Tenant Janet] Genis-Bell said the entire building should be sprayed. Doing it suite by suite just moves the bugs around and doesn’t kill them all, she said.
“My mother, she won’t even come over to visit me and my children won’t bring my grandchildren over because they’re afraid they’ll take bed bugs home with them. It’s awful.”
Darin Froese is BC Housing’s the regional director for the Fraser region. He said Monday the agency is working hard to eradicate the pests at Ted Kuhn.
Froese said they’ve hired a pest control company that uses a specially trained dog to sniff out the bed bugs.
And Froese points out that residents need to cooperate with treatment:
Froese said tenants are also part of the problem at Ted Kuhn. Some tenants are reluctant to report bed bug infestations because of the attached stigma, but pointed out some of the world’s best hotels have been invaded, too.
“We need tenants to report immediately when bugs are discovered and to not bring in used furniture and mattresses. We also need them to use the special mattress covers we are issuing.”
The need for tenant cooperation is essential and cannot be discounted.
However, in cases where tenants are suffering with bed bugs after seven treatments, as Genis-Bell is, then it seems like something is wrong with the system. Surely not everyone currently suffering from bed bugs in Ted Kuhn Tower is uncooperative?
And if only some tenants are not cooperating, is there nothing that can be done to force those non-compliant tenants to cooperate?
If not, then something needs to be done to make this possible. I’m with Joe Fiorito in Toronto who said in The Star today that “… compliance [with bed bug treatment] ought to be compelled with a gentle hand; in some cases, help must be delivered with a dollop of social and psychological services.” Absolutely. Support must be provided. But treatment must happen.
And yes, I recognize that types of treatments should vary. If someone has medical reasons for not getting traditional pesticide sprays, alternate methods such as thermal heat, or steam and dusts, must be properly administered.
But people should not be living with bed bugs a year after they’re discovered in the building. Multiple units should not be treated, one at a time, 7 or 9 times — as Janet Genis-Bell and Bill MacLeod discovered, piecemeal sprayings of individual units are not enough.
To say, as the building management does, that the bed bug situation in Ted Kuhn Tower is “better now than it was a year ago” is simply not good enough.
Update (12/16): I am glad to see Ted Colley of Surrey Now is still watching this situation.
I am sad to say the Ted Kuhn bed bug problem continues. This article claims tenants are still being bitten (including Janet Genis-Bell!) Management claims the problem is that some tenants (including mentally challenged ones) are not allowing PCOs to enter for treatment or are retrieving even slashed mattresses from dumpsters after neighbors discard them:
Janet Genis-Bell is lives in the tower. She allows her place to be sprayed, but said the situation isn’t improving.
“We were sprayed just a couple of days ago and the bugs are going crazy. We’re getting chewed up,” Genis-Bell said.
She said she knows some residents won’t let the bug control people in, but she doesn’t know what to do. She’s tired of the bed bugs, but said she lives on disability benefits and can’t afford to move. Friends and family have stopped coming to visit out of fear they’ll take the little critters home with them. It’s all having a very bad effect on Genis-Bell’s life.
Sabourin understands, but as long as other tenants refuse to get with the program, there’s not a lot more BC Housing can do.
“We can’t coerce people. It can take three months to evict people and meantime the problem continues.”
There is something terribly wrong with this system. People can’t be forced to have their homes treated for bed bugs, nor forced to stop bringing in known infested items.
And yet their neighbors who do consent to treatment can be forced to put up with bed bugs.
How to fix? There simply must be laws put in place to deal with this situation.
And yes, there must be support: social support for those with emotional or mental issues which are in play here. Physical support for those who refuse treatment because they can’t do prep. Financial help for those who cannot pay for prep.
And frankly, education is also key: because some people refuse treatment even if they do not have diagnosed issues of any kind.
Living with bed bugs is unacceptable.