Bed bugs in New Haven: why can’t housing officials solve the problem?

by nobugsonme on August 13, 2007 · 3 comments

in bed bug education, bed bug prevention, bed bug treatment, bed bugs, bed bugs in low-income housing, bed bugs in public housing, best practices, connecticut, mattresses, new haven, usa

When we first heard part of New Haven’s Crawford Manor public housing was infested with bed bugs, housing officials were taking the infestations seriously (good) but also moving tenants from infested home to local hotels and then other apartments (not good), and also rushing to blame a woman who carries her belongings around and has five cats (also not good, and probably not accurate). Fifteen of 109 units were known to be infested, and officials thought that anyone else with bed bugs would surely know it.

Housing Authority director Jimmy Miller quipped,

“It’s not something that would go unnoticed. You do get bites from them,” he said.

Well, actually, Jimmy, if your PCO knew his stuff, he’d tell you that many, many people (some professionals even claim it’s most) are not allergic, and so do not react to bed bug bites. I would bet actual cash that more than 15 of your units are infested– for in addition to the non-allergic, there are always also the non-reporters. And who’d blame them, after all, since your office rushed to blame the poor cat lady, with no explanation of how you can prove which unit was ground zero?

Angela Carter of the New Haven Register updated readers on the saga on Friday.
residents of 13 of the infested 15 units are back home, after their hotel stay. The other two units’ occupants have been moved to new units and still have bed bugs.

The housing authority has provided Witherspoon and the other affected tenants with new beds and bed linens, pillows and lamps. “They’re supposed to give us sofas, too,” she said.

Housing Authority Executive Director Jimmy Miller said about $15,000 has been spend fighting off the stubborn pests. “These little critters are hiding in the chases,” he said. “We did a second application this week of a pesticide. There will be one more application later on.”

I am glad treatment is persisting and that Miller knows the bed bugs may be hidden in the building itself. However, people fighting bed bugs should not say things like “there will be one more treatment.” Those who know bed bugs know that you must treat every two weeks until all bed bugs and signs of bed bugs are gone. That means never assuming how many treatments will be required, and never letting residents off their guard. Those not highly allergic might not notice a bed bug or two remaining, and then in time, they will have a full-blown infestation again.

I hope the new mattresses and pillows were encased with bed bug-proof coverings, so that bed bugs would not easily hide in them.

Meanwhile, Carter updated us on the other New Haven public housing bed bugs case at the Essex Houses.

The housing authority also had to exterminate two units at Essex Townhouses off Quinnipiac Avenue in Fair Haven three times.

Officials were unsure why the infestations were occurring repeatedly at Essex Townhouses but Chief Operations Officer Karen DuBois-Walton said units would be treated until the problem clears.

DuBois-Walton has exactly the right idea about persistent treatment. (Every two weeks, mind you!)

But why are bed bug infestations occurring repeatedly? It’s likely that:

a) Some tenants have bed bugs and either are not allergic and so do not notice bed bugs, or (in rare cases) notice but do not care or fear the consequences of reporting them. If some units harbor bed bugs, the problem will continue; and / or

b) The bed bugs are hiding out in walls or pipe chases or other parts of the building, and coming back; and / or

c) Wherever your tenants or employees got bed bugs, and tracked them in, they are still getting them and bringing them in. This is a real problem for all kinds of people. You need to really examine your life and the patterns of when bed bugs are (re)introduced. It’s hard to pinpoint.

Does anyone in your life have a bed bug problem? (They –and you– may have no idea. You can still catch them.)

Could they be at work? Exclusive designers’ offices, law firms, hospitals, social service agencies, homeless shelters, have all been infested. No line of work is “above” this. Again, you may have no idea if you are not highly allergic. If you are allergic, and now have them at home, you may not realize work is the source.

Are local stores now infested? (When people purchase and return things, this is possible.)

The questions are frightening, and the answers lead us back to the need for a larger approach than each building trying to stamp out bed bugs that tenants report.

Instead, we need to think big. That means we need public education, we need standards of treatment to be established, we need government to track locations and duration of infestations, and we need financial assistance to individuals and to landlords to help get rid of bed bugs.

1 hopelessnomo August 13, 2007 at 1:11 pm

In your open to do list, I guess one thing we haven’t talked about much here is the need for treatment standards.

I think this would help tremendously and I’d hope the NPMA is looking into this.

Standard protocols that indicate where treatment is applied, what the follow-ups should be, and how to educate the customer, would go such a long way.

No more telling the customer to put their clothes back in their dressers after the second treatment (without bothering to inspect) and no more telling customers this or that room doesn’t have to be treated, etc.

2 James Buggles August 13, 2007 at 7:59 pm

Maybe we need a Bed Bug Czar. Potter in the white house and NoBugs in City Hall. Anyone second these nominations?

3 Bugalina August 14, 2007 at 12:02 pm

James..I will second the vote…I’d like to see a cabinet post in there for hopelessnomo as well….There can be no doubt that our Public Health Commission had better start something soon.

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