A Closer Look At Low-Income Housing & Bed Bugs

The goal of public housing is to provide a suitable living environment for qualified, low-income families. Public housing currently serves about 1.2 million households. A Rutgers study recently concluded that in the state of New Jersey, one in eight low-income apartments had bed bugs, and half the time the residents were unaware of the problem.

This unfortunate statistic is one of the many reasons we need to spend more time exploring  potential bed bug control strategies in low-income housing scenarios. It is a difficult challenge but necessary to ensure a decent living environment is offered and maintained for all residents.

As with all types of accounts, providing bed bug education to the tenant is critical. However, public housing households are multi-culturally diverse where residents’ native language are wide-ranging. This variation in language and education levels greatly impacts the Housing Agent and pest professional’s ability to communicate with tenants about bed bugs. Often conflicting, some tenants may attempt to hide bed bug problem rather than reporting it for fear of social embarrassment or even eviction.

A bed bug outbreak in a single unit can quickly transition into a more widespread issue. Since low-income housing structures are often adjoining apartment units, when a bed bug problem is left unaddressed and permitted to expand, it will often infest neighboring units causing greater expense and a wider tenant impact. Therefore, prevention of bed bugs becomes a very important factor in the overall management and control of bed bugs.

Some other important factors to consider:

• Communication with tenants about bed bugs is critical. Using a language familiar to the tenant and offer education the signs of bed bugs. Be sure to include visuals of bed bugs at different stages from egg through adult.
• Create a reporting system for a bed bug infestation and ensure tenants that prompt action will be taken to control the problem by a qualified pest professional. Forbid the use of DIY treatments which may, at times, be dangerous or may worsen the problem causing the bed bugs to spread.
• Institute bed bug protocols that follow Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as well as a response system for bed bug complaints.
• Once control of bed bugs has been achieved, implement preventive measures including installing ActiveGuard Mattress Liners on each bed throughout the facility.  This ensures bed bugs that may be re-introduced do not develop into infestations and are not permitted to spread to neighboring units.

Following the tips shared in this article while adopting a preventive mindset to the bed bug problem can help to ensure a healthy and bed bug free living environment for those in public housing.

This article was adapted from the writing of Susan Jones, PhD Professor, Department of Entomology, The Ohio State University, from her excerpt in ‘Bed Bugs & Prevention… Is It Possible?’ originally appearing in PCT Magazine’s December 2016 Issue. Click here to read the story in its entirety.

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