Vancouver’s Radio CKNW (AM980) reports on their website Saturday:

Advocacy group fights bed bug outbreak

VANCOUVER – Community advocacy group the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users VANDU is trying to fight a massive outbreak of bedbugs in that city’s Downtown Eastside by gutting infested rooms.

The group’s Anne Livingston says residents have had six weeks notice to decide what to do with their possesions.

After the rooms are gutted, crews move in to spray with powerful chemicals to kill the bed bugs.
Livingston says residents get to bring 60 pounds of clothing out of their apartments that will be laundered and returned to them.

Anne Livingston and VANDU were mentioned here in a post in March. Last summer, they got a $51,000 government grant to provide a round of 2 PCO treatments for bed bugs in two badly infested Downtown Eastside hotels. The residents also got replacement furniture and beds.

The city commissioned a study which said 1/2 of those rooms were bed bug free two months later.

Although the funding was probably was not enough treatment to achieve a higher success rate (which would likely require more PCO visits in many cases), the VANDU activisits definitely know what they’re doing. Back in March, we quoted an article in which Livingston said,

“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.

Education, as we keep saying, is key–for residents of every treated building, I might add, whether it’s an SRO hotel, an expensive NYC co-op apartment building, a tenement, or a homeless shelter. (Remember, I live in NYC, where well-to-do professionals shop at bohemian flea markets, and yuppies take used furniture off the curb.)

I applaud the work of Livingston and the other folks at VANDU. I know with more funding and support, they will be able to continue to make a huge difference in peoples’ lives.

I hate that community activists like VANDU and the Allston-Brighton Community Development Corporation in Boston have to step in, since I think we need more infrastructure and government assistance helping people get good bed bug treatment and supplies they need (from XL ziplocs to furniture). Both of these groups have had government funding, which is great. I just think they probably need a lot more.

And is anyone in NYC or San Francisco, Montreal, Toronto, or anywhere else doing similar work? We’d love to hear about it.

1 Bugalina July 15, 2007 at 11:12 am

The way I see it, is that Bed Bugs are a National Problem…The government owes us a not coming up with one they are a major contributor to the problem. The cost of our extermination and all the necessary purchases and the move, drained my savings thousands of dollars. Ok you might say, that’s her problem. But Because Bed bugs, unlike any other insect, “commute” from one infested area to another, So that even the most responsible of persons can find themselves dealing with infestation over and over, becomes (imo) a societal problem. I don’t care how others live or keep their homes, that’s their business, but if someone ignores their infestation, and the bugs start to commute into my apt. or condo, etc. That’s when we have a problem on our hands. If I go to work and have a desk next to a person who isn’t addressing their infestation, this becomes a societal problem. If my luggage is stored in a cargo area next to infested luggage, this is a problem. If I pay hard earned money to stay in a hotel and bugs get into my belongings and follow me home, this becomes a major issue of why I should suffer because the hotel either was in neglect or they don’t have any true solutions to kill the bugs off, for good. Vancouver has a gun to their heads because of the 2010 Olympics. By remaining silent, the US Government is a major contributer to the out of control spread of bed bugs. This IS a serious health issue for every socio-economic class.

2 nobugsonme July 15, 2007 at 8:37 pm

It’s not just about people who “ignore” their infestations, though.

Some people would desperately like to fight their infestations and cannot afford to.

Many are likely infested and have no idea. Experts have said as many as 70% may not be allergic, and may not notice the bites. So if they are not alerted to the presence of bed bugs, which can get very bad before you see them, they may have no idea, and no warning that they need to treat.

3 Bugalina July 15, 2007 at 8:53 pm

Absolutely nobugs…but the most worrisome of all are those who don’t take any actions…and I am afraid that there are a lot out there who don’t.. Those people don’t come here for help…This is an unknown factor..What I am trying to say is that bed bugs are unlike any insect we’ve had to deal with before… if I have bed bugs and I live in close proximity to others who do nothing…I will be in a constant state of “treating”….This is a terrible thought for people who live in multiple family dwellings…Its a real problem…that must be addressed by government…I am trying to point out how serious this is…If Vancouver doesn’t step up to the plate and take control, they are dealing with a population on the Eastside that exists of many who won’t seek treatment..this poses a risk to all others…that’s the point I am trying to make..

4 parakeets July 16, 2007 at 7:55 pm

The words “massive outbreak of bedbugs” scare me since I don’t know any municipality that has money to fight a massive outbreak of anything, let alone a massive outbreak of a bug that doesn’t cause deaths. Even if they totally eradicated the bedbugs in one complex in Vancouver (a miracle in itself and I hope they succeed), how many times in a 5 or 10 year period would they have to re-do the same treatment? How many other complexes would they have to treat? Where would the money for subsequent treatments come from? Where do these people with bedbugs live while their rooms are being “gutted”? Who’s to say all these people won’t just simply spread bedbugs even further by moving out while their places are being treated?

I am getting increasingly discouraged. It only will get worse. We will move to an economy where only people in single-family houses will be able to feel a modicum of safety from bedbugs, and then only if they don’t encounter bedbugs outside their homes and bring them back in. Fear of hotels, fear of college dorms, fear of padded movie and plane seats, fear of buying furniture–oh, the economy will feel it for sure. I think part of the reason the message on bedbugs is not being spread appropriately is because there is financial interest in not letting people know the powerful financial impact it will have. There’s a lot of wishing and hoping that scientists can come up with a way to control bedbugs before Bedbug Day, but since people are dying of mosquito bites, even this summer, and roaches and fruitflies are still very much in evidence no matter how much money is consistently poured into treating them, I don’t see entomologists coming up with a bedbug solution quickly. Bedbugs are here. I’m saving for a single-family house, maybe as small as those new mini-post-Katrina doll houses.

5 nobugsonme July 16, 2007 at 8:23 pm

Well, there was once a solution that worked for many decades. I am hopeful scientists will come up with something that works.

In the meantime, the rowboats are sinking. It’s not that VANDU is going to totally eradicate bed bugs from the DTES. But they have to keep bailing out the water.

Right now, in such a situation, it’s a matter of holding bed bugs at bay, rather than eliminating them permanently…

6 Bugalina July 16, 2007 at 9:54 pm

Maybe another thing that the government is counting on , in order to keep this bug epidemic from “going public’ is Shame….So much shame is associated with bed bugs that people don’t tell others that they are “infested”…In a week and a half I have seen two box spring and mattresss sets discarded on the curbs..and today two perfectly good conditioned boxsprings on a curb…with about 10 black plastic bags tied up..So that’s three different houses…in a very nice suburban neighborhood on Long Island….No one would DARE to write bed bugs on them…but when I see only mattresses on the curb…it sends a chill up my spine…So shame is keeping people quiet…I know it kept me very quiet for over a year…its just recently I am able to talk about it with people in my neighborhood…and still, they think it could never happen to them…but after I clue them in…they start to say…Geez.. Lately I have seen a lot of mattresses thrown out…And I say…That’s right…no one is talking about it….they keep it to themselves….Its so insane…Get true statistics from PCOS…that’s what we need..

7 Peter March 20, 2008 at 11:23 am

watched the CTV news last night only to see in horror, the problem of bedbugs in the city of Vancouver. What particularly dismayed me, was that the city seems to care less about the problem and does not see it as a health issue. I am a newcomer to Vancouver, and am considering buying property. Now I am reconsidering. It worries me that the city health sees no problems with its residents living with vermon, including bedbugs. It baffles me, that with the Olympics coming, no one seems to care that the visitors to this city may actually walk away with more than just memories of the Games, but also some nice welts and perhaps bedbugs that they will bring home with them and infest their cities! Is no one concerned with this? I just did not know how bad it was in the city! It seems to be everywhere, and spreading. I noticed downtown and in the Westend, they are everywhere. Makes me wonder how many condos have this problem. I noticed none have been reported, but I find it hard to believe as many condo/stratas allow rentals. I would be curious to know if any of those buildings are plagued.

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