Posts tagged ‘Bed Bugs’

December 1, 2010

How scared should we be about bed bugs?

Adult bed bug, Cimex lectularius

Image via Wikipedia

Knowing I work at WoodGreen Community Services, which has been on the forefront of the bedbug issue for a while, a friend asked me how nervous she should be about going to a movie theatre that night.

Her fear sprang from the furor causes when a tweet wrongly accused Scotiabank Theatre of harbouring bed bugs and the widespread media coverage how the bugs are sweeping Manhattan’s toniest locations.

“Or how about subways and street cars?” she asked.

“Go,” I said. “If you’re nervous, strip off when you get home, bag your clothes and then launder and dry them.”

We are not (yet) at the point you have to stop going out into public spaces.

Some activities are riskier, such as

  • moving residences (especially if it’s into an apartment building — so make sure to ask),
  • travelling (check those head boards and mattress seams), or
  • picking up second-hand furniture off the street (no more boulevard shopping).

I still trust the Toronto Transit Commission – especially safe in the winter when most of its vehicles sit outside overnight, freezing. And I think movie theatres – and other entertainment venues – were so shaken by the Twitter furor, that I expect discreet inspections are done regularly.

The good news, this week, was the attention that bed bugs generated at the municipal and provincial levels. If we manage our own surroundings cautiously and if coordinated and proactive actions are taken, bed bugs will be well-managed.

A community bed bug committee, composed of residents, tenant associations, non-profits, government reps and broader networks recently adopted a “Bedbug Mani-pest-o” outlining five key points:

  1. Build a public education campaign to raise awareness on the rising incidence of bed bug infestations, the methods of dealing with them and to de-stigmatize bed bugs
  2. Establish standard protocols for treatment of bed bugs
  3. Develop and promote a consistent community response that includes funds to support vulnerable populations to reduce financial barriers to eradicate bed bugs
  4. Conduct widespread monitoring of bed bug incidences across the Province
  5. Draft and enact legislative policies that support quick and effective responses to bed bugs

Liberal M.P.P. Mike Colle has taken almost all of these and built them into his recommendations to the province, only shying away from the legislative piece.

N.D.P. Cheri DiNovo has introduced a bill to license landlords.

The Toronto Board of Health and the City of Toronto are both lobbying for more resources, arguing that early interventions will ensure bed bugs don’t spread further.

Solutions are emerging.

For the moment, we can sleep tight. Just don’t let the bed bugs bite.

read more »

November 29, 2009

Bed Bugs: A call for action in Toronto

The reports are in: bed bugs aren’t just found in nursery rhymes.

In case you missed the media hyperbole a few weeks ago, it was stunning. The National Post led with the story of the spread of bed bugs on transit vehicles and other public spaces. CBC’s The National covered the release of the two reports, released simultaneously, at Toronto City Hall. A section of the print story on the CBC website was subtitled “psychologically terrorized.”

The stories reflected the panicky mood of the 100+ crowd who attended the launch of the reports, commissioned by Habitat Services and WoodGreen Community Services.  Many of those in attendance felt compelled to speak from the floor after the presentation, and boxes of reports disappeared by the armload.

The two bed bug reports focus on the policy responses required to combat the spread of bed bugs and, also, on what to do if you are battling the pests.

The message was clear: bed bugs are back. Toronto Public Health has already agreed to direct some of its scarce resources to low income residents faced with the high costs of extermination.

Both reports are available on the WoodGreen website in the What’s New section. [Full disclosure: this is the agency where I work.]

November 13, 2008

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.

%d bloggers like this: