According to some homeless people, the bed bugs “are biting wind” and it is now more comfortable, but not particularly safer to rest under the stars.
Health officials are expected to visit the Riverside Carpark homeless facility next week to deal with the bugs, although officials there say the bugs are not a serious issue.
But certainly there are many problems with vagrants all over Port-of-Spain. One died on Chacon Street, Port-of-Spain, last week. Strewn garbage and human filth are everywhere.
According to a street count that is done twice annually by the Social Displacement Unit, as of June to July 2007, there were 244 vagrants in Port-of-Spain, 62 in San Fernando, 16 in San Juan, five in Curepe, 11 in Tunapuna, 16 in Arima, 11 in Chaguanas and two in Couva.
Many see them as an eyesore, some as a social issue, when Sunday Newsday contacted Field Officer Roger Watson with the St Vincent De Paul Society for the Riverside Centre on Piccadilly Street, Port-of-Spain. He explained that the reason for the high number of vagrants in the nation’s capital is because people are not dealing with their own community.
“It is a known fact that most homeless persons suffer from some sort of mental disorder. We have people from all over the country being treated at the St Ann’s Hospital and when they are discharged they are not reaching back home so they end up in the city, it is a serious situation,” he said.
He believes this shows people are ignoring their responsibilities to the community.
With more than 170 persons living at the Centre and a great percentage of that suffering from various mental disorders he is vigilant residents get their treatment.
“I personally work with the mental health officer at St Ann’s where we would follow up on their health. We have a nurse on board and we make sure they get the proper medication. They also go to the Woodbrook Clinic to get their check-ups,” he said.
Watson revealed the new Minister of Social Development, Dr Amery Browne paid a visit to the Centre recently.
“I thought that was very good of him and I know they have plans in place to deal with the situation but whatever it is, it will take a while. What they can do for us right now, is give us a paint job and some maintenance on the building,” he said.
“If that is done the residents’ self-esteem will be so high,” he added.
When asked about a suggestion that the Centre be for the Socially Displaced relocated to Piparo, he questioned: “Why hide me in the bush in Piparo, take me away from everything that is Trinidad what did I do to deserve this because I am homeless.”
At the Centre, Watson insists the residents maintain good behaviour.
“Some of them are addicted to drugs and if they bring it into the Centre or they choose to not go to rehab they cross a line and they have to face the consequences. We tell them to take a five days outside of the Centre, let them clear their head for a while,” he said.
He also prevents the residents from establishing relationships with each other.
“Females are on their level and males are on theirs, physical contact is totally out of the question,” he said.
When told of reports of bed bugs invading the Centre Watson said it was exaggerated.
“Sometimes we encounter bugs and we usually spray often throughout the year but nothing to be alarmed about,” he said.
He revealed that the residents sometimes have to pay for certain things to encourage a better quality life.
“They usually pay one dollar for soap or clothes or we usually have movies being shown, they pay a dollar for that as well,” he said.
As a field officer Watson moves around the city to familiarise himself with vagrants who do not make the Centre their home.
“I know the majority of the people on the streets and I notice we are getting so many new faces and it all comes back down to what are we doing within the community to prevent the flow of people coming on the streets,” he said.
Watson who has been working with the society for 14 years makes sure the residents feel like they are a part of something.
“During the Carnival season we had a calypso competition, during lent we have a lenten crusade. Outside of that they take part in All Fours, some of them are expected to take part in a table tennis competition soon, they have fun he said,” he explained. He talked about persons who come out on holidays and Sundays to feed the homeless.
“Why do people who get a vision to feed the people come down here and only cater food for 16 people when the rest stay without. They need to deal with things in their community. Stop sending people out of their community I can not say that enough,” he said.
The bed bug
The bed bug name comes from the tendency of the insect to live between mattresses and feed on the occupants at night. Bed bugs do not fly or jump, but move quickly over floors, walls, ceilings, and furniture.
Bed bugs are wingless, approximately 1/4 inch in length with a flattened oval shape and rusty brown in colour. Female bed bugs lay up to five eggs a day and 500 during a lifetime. A bed bug can live up to 18 months without a blood meal and adults normally live for about ten months. Since bed bugs are only active at nights, any daytime sightings may indicate a heavy infestation.
Where do bed bugs come from
Bed bugs can seem to come from nowhere, but are seen more and more in apartments, hotels, homes, shelters, dormitories and nursing homes. They are active travellers, usually transported in luggage, boxes, clothing, furniture and even hair.
Bed bugs feed on any bare skin exposed while sleeping. Red itchy welts are an indication of an infestation. Bed bug “bites” occur when the bed bug is actually drawing blood. It may take as long as 14 days for a welt to appear from a bed bug “bite.”
The infested person should resist the urge to scratch the “bites”, as this may intensify the itching and cause an infection. Some people have a reaction to bed bug “bites” and may need to seek medical assistance.
Getting rid of the bugs
Complete elimination of the bed bug infestation may be difficult without the service of a knowledgeable Pest Control Service.
It may even take as many as five or more treatments to gain control of the infestation.
*Reduce the amount of clutter to achieve a good treatment and eliminate hiding places.
*Vacuum mattresses, box springs and carpets, dispose vacuumed contents in a sealed plastic bag.
*Spray bed bugs with alcohol (use small plastic spray bottle and 90 percent rubbing alcohol undiluted), in-between professional treatments.
*Wash bedding and garments in hot (120 degrees F) water.