Researcher Needed for Bed Bug Project

(This is too fun not to post. Who wouldn’t want to do research with a real impact?)
[If you landed here, looking for info on bed bugs, look at WoodGreen’s helpful manual on the subject.]

Project Overview:
WoodGreen, in partnership with Habitat Services, seeks a researcher to work with us to document and assess the efficacy of our Bedbug Inspection, Response and Tenant Education Project, and to help us answer some remaining questions in this field. The Project aims to prevent and reduce the spread of bedbugs in 45 boarding and rooming houses in Toronto. There has been very little research conducted to document the impact of bedbugs on low-income, vulnerable groups in Toronto, North America, or even elsewhere. We are looking for a creative and innovative researcher who wants to make a significant contribution towards community research on this issue.
Key responsibilities include:
• finalize research plan and budget with Project partners
• work with the Project staff to summarize and describe the project implementation process, and to highlight its strengths and challenges
• develop an interview tool, then train and work with peer evaluators to document 10 stories of tenants who have been effected by bedbugs
• work with Project staff to answer remaining questions about best practices for bedbug response, including one or more of the following (to be finalized by Project staff and researcher):
o How are/will be organizations outside of the social services and housing sectors affected by bedbugs?
o What is the true, total cost of eliminating bedbugs from a housing setting?
o To what extent are bedbug problems correlated with poverty?
o What is the tenant experience of having bedbugs, including emotional and psychological impacts?
o What are the financial and other benefits of public response to bedbug problems in advance of a more widespread epidemic?
o What is the environmental impact of dealing with bedbugs, in terms of energy used, waste created and pesticides released?
• interview at least 8 key informants representing a variety of Project stakeholders
• develop and implement a way to measure the amount of accurate information about bedbugs that tenants as well as landlords learned from being involved in the Project
• meet with partners to review data collected from the Project to identify and document project trends and learnings
• assist Project staff to create educational materials suitable for tenants in Habitat Services’ client profile
• work with the Project partners to write a final report, intended as a resource to the boarding and rooming house sector, private and non-profit landlords, tenants, and support services providers
• carry out the research in a non-judgemental, respective, and non-intrusive way which respects the privacy of those involved, and upholds the mission and mandates of WoodGreen and Habitat Services

• a graduate degree and experience working with community groups and agencies to develop and implement research projects
• knowledge of the issues facing low income, vulnerable tenants, with mental health issues, and histories of street-involvement, homelessness, and/or substance use

Our initial deadline for applications is Sunday, November 30th, 2008. We anticipate budgets between $20,000 and $30,000.

The deadline for completing all work and reporting is March 31, 2009. Work is expected to begin in December 2008.
Please apply by sending a resume, cover letter, and draft research work plan including expected compensation to:
Elaine Magil, Manager of Tenant Outreach and Education
WoodGreen Community Services
835 Queen St. E., Toronto, ON M4M 1H9
emagil at

About WoodGreen:
WoodGreen Community Services takes an integrated approach to building a better Toronto. We offer innovative, long-term solutions to the most critical social issues facing our city today. WoodGreen provides the essentials of life to 37,000 individuals and families from across the GTA annually. With
20 locations across east Toronto, we deliver services that promote wellness and self-sufficiency, reduce poverty and inequality, and build sustainable communities. This Project is one of a number of innovative responses WoodGreen has implemented to tackle the issue of bed bugs in Toronto.

About Habitat Services:
Habitat Services provides boarding home accommodation for 860 people in 46 locations across the City of Toronto. Habitat was developed in response to identified problems with the physical conditions and personal care  standards provided in private sector boarding and lodging homes, where many people with a history of serious mental illness were housed. In 1987, the Ministries of Health and Long Term Care, Housing, Community and Social Services, and the City of Toronto were involved in the establishment of Habitat Services. The mandate of Habitat Services, in conjunction with the funding partners, was to improve the quality of housing for people with a history of serious mental illness by monitoring standards of care in private sector, for-profit boarding homes, and to make the housing environment as supportive as possible. Central to Habitat’s success as an organization trying to improve standards in for profit boarding homes is the use of a commercial contract. The contract and enhanced per diem is used by Habitat to enforce minimum standards and to offer an incentive to
boarding home owner/operators to provide housing to people with serious mental illness. In 2007/2008, Habitat received 748 referrals from over 83 designated referral sources in the city. 41% of our referrals have legal involvement, 26% of referrals came from hospitals and 13 % of current
tenants were referred to Habitat by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Habitat also provides site support services for tenants as part of its program. Services include accompanying tenants to health and social services, housing appointments and advocacy. In March of 2006 we received notice from the City of Toronto, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration division that the Province had allowed the City to flow surplus per diem funding to Habitat to address health and safety concerns in the portfolio. Building audits were completed for each house and expert recommendations made to improve cooling. The project allowed us to implement custom cooling solutions in 39 homes, and to require a cooling room at every site. Now, in 2008-2009, we have again used surplus per diem funding to address the spreading of bed bugs in boarding home accommodation and provide information and financial assistance to the owners dealing with this issue.

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