Look out. My community organizer swords are starting to rattle...
This is a story of which you may already be aware, but downtown residents, especially those in the more impoverished neighborhoods, are being plagued with yet another persistent pest who seems to only come out at night.
No, it's not the peeping tom (they caught him, I've heard, and for which I am eternally grateful) - no, this time it's more than one, in fact, they multiply quickly, and it's the terrorist sort - the type that cripple people with fear, fear of going to sleep, of being caught off guard. It's everyone's worst nightmare: it's the awful creepy creatures called bedbugs, which to my surprise, many people think are mythical. I figure that's most likely because those blessedly unaware souls have never had the displeasure of night time stinging visits nor suffered the long-lasting, miserable irritation of their bites.
I live on Second Street - and I have never had them, thank the Lord, because my landlady has a pest control service that keeps everything nice and itchless ... but I am lucky to pay rent to someone who tries to do the right thing and keep our building safe. But how about my friends who live nearby, what are they to do? The biggest complaints are coming from renters who often must endure slum-like conditions due to their financial situations, finances already strained due to the current economic struggle.
Really and truly, it's a situation that is unbearable to consider - that these folks - through no fault of their own - are unable able to rid themselves of these pests, that they cannot rest because when they sleep, the bugs come out and then they must dispose of everything they own and replace it, and move. Again. Ouchy.
The story I am hearing is that if they report their residential infestations to the appropriate LFUCG Code Enforcement personnel, the situation is addressed and eventually remedied, but usually the renters are forced to move thereafter for one reason or another. As most people are aware, this is unfortunately becoming a recurring theme when dealing with pesky issues and governmental red tape where the proverbial Davids meet their Goliaths - without the Biblical result, of course.
Accordingly, people in the housing with the infestations do not call for help; the bugs populate; and the problem worsens. Tempers flare. Money must be spent that is simply not there. The people of the inner city feel powerless against this menace, and must keep uprooting themselves away from the bugs...most likely to another place that will eventually have them, too. It is a problem. It perpetuates poverty.
My friend lives on Fourth Street near M-L King and has had to move three times...is getting ready to move again. She's very fragile, and I fear for her constantly, especially in this heat. Yesterday I drove her to the grocery, and she pointed out there are tons of couches and beds out on the streets if you look along the northern ends of Broadway, Upper, Limestone and M-L King, Loudon. These people have to throw all of their belongings away and then move on like refugees from apartment to apartment because they're somehow infested, and with the oppressive heat, it's just one more ingredient to cause even more grief to those who cannot afford to move to nicer housing or call in the pest control folks and cure it themselves.
So why am I yammering on and on about this? Because I am hoping to get some advice from someone who knows a solution. Perhaps we should ask LFUCG's Code Enforcement to clarify that it's okay to call them, or what steps to take to ensure they're not evicted or forced to move for making a complaint to the code folks. I don't know...but I am going to try my best to find out where we can look for help.