I am frequently asked about pest control by various members of the community. In church, at restaurants while eating, even at weddings, I have been asked bug questions without hesitation. Often, I nod and smile and give answers as if we are talking about the weather, because I earn a living as a pest management professional. No one wants to live with bugs so I am not surprised by the urgency behind the inquiries. Recently, I had an encounter that caught me off guard.
One evening after stopping to pick up a few items for dinner, I noticed a woman standing by my truck as I was leaving the grocery store. She seemed a little nervous as I approached her and my vehicle. As I slowed my step to better sum up the situation, she looked up and asked hurriedly, “Hello, are you Mrs. Holmes?” I nodded slowly, wondering what was next. The young woman began to tell me she had seen me around town and wanted to know what do about the bug bites on her children, whom she pointed to in the car next to my truck.
Putting my bags away, I turned my attention to the beautiful girls staring back at me. As I started examining her babies, the mom began to tell me her story. She had been displaced by Nashville’s May floods and had to move into temporary housing several times in the last few months. “I am practically homeless,” she blurted out in despair. “I am living in a shelter that is running over with bugs. My kids are being eaten alive.” As a mother of three, my heart went out to her immediately. This mom was homeless because of circumstances beyond her control and she was facing a situation that happens in the homeless community often: infested living quarters.
Pest control issues plague the homeless. Bedbugs are all the rage on the nightly news of late, but contact any advocate for the homeless and pest control issues are discussed often. How do you battle pests like roaches, rodents, lice, and mosquitoes in crowded conditions with limited resources? Often the pest control budget is limited by a “What can we get for the cheapest price?” mindset. That line of thinking plus a lack of education on preventive measures equals trouble for all parties involved.