Rebecca Cothran has slept in Church Street Manor on an air mattress donated by her church.
She has thrown away a bed, sofa and other items in efforts to get rid of bed bugs.
“I have bites and scars all over my body,” Cothran said.
The Norton Agency represents an investment group that owns the Jesse Jewell Parkway property, which is considered a Housing and Urban Development rental project. Frank Norton said they have spent $80,000 on outside vendors on bed bug eradication prior to this latest round of work.
“We recognize that there has been a historic problem and that the corrective measures we’ve done over the last year or so have not solved that problem,” Norton said.
Norton said it is unclear how many of the 54 units at Church Street Manor are affected, but the management has recently stepped up efforts to improve the situation.
Cothran said she has dealt with this problem for years and has been looking at what other housing options are available.
“They get in our clothes. They get in our underwear. They get in our bras. They crawl in my hair,” she said.
A vacant unit is used for interim housing for tenants while the pest control company performs its eradication service unit by unit. Gainesville Housing Authority executive director Beth Brown said tenants are out for several hours while the treatment is underway, and there is money provided to wash clothes and belongings.
Norton said they are roughly a third of the way through this newest effort at eradication and hope to complete the process by the middle of winter. The cold weather provides the best time to strike, as bed bugs tend to be more dormant at lower temperatures.
A majority of the tenants have been compliant and working with the management during these eradication efforts, Norton said. Cooperation is key to avoid reinfection.
“Some of the units have been treated three and four times,” Norton said about efforts prior to this latest round.
Norton said there has been no discussion between his agency and the investors about selling the property.
“I think the right thing to do is to eradicate the bed bugs … with the existing tenants in place,” Norton said when asked about the possibility of closing the property.
Brown said the pest control company is on a monthly contract to come perform treatments as often as needed.
What is a bed bug?
Reddish-brown, flat and roughly the size of a hole punch, bed bugs can reportedly go several months “without a blood meal,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC said the insects’ presence “is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.”
“They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep,” according to the CDC.
The Environmental Protection Agency said bites from bed bugs can cause mild to severe allergic reactions and secondary infections as well as mental health effects including “anxiety, insomnia and systemic reactions.”
Bed bugs are often transported by those traveling from infected areas, as the insects are known to hide “in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bagss, folded clothes, bedding (and) furniture,” according to the CDC.