Bed Bug Rumor Ruins Senior Cleanup Day
Saturday, April 7, 2012

GARY - An apparent false communication about bedbugs derailed the Good Friday cleanup at a senior citizen high-rise Friday.

For the first time since 1993, State Rep. Vernon Smith and his group of young African-American Achievers weren't able to donate their time cleaning apartments for senior citizens at the Al Thomas senior citizen high-rise, 100 W. 11th Ave.

Smith said Friday his group arrived at the senior center in the morning and its office was closed. Smith said a security guard was the lone person by the office and the guard told one of his board members the building had bedbugs. The officer said his own home had been infested.

"We discussed it and decided we couldn't put the boys in harm's way and take the stuff to their homes," said Smith.

A short time later after the crew had left, Smith received calls from Gary Housing Authority interim director Nate Williams and tenant council president Beverly Johnson saying the center did not have bedbugs.

"There are no bedbugs in this building," Johnson said. There's nothing going on here," she said.

Johnson said they had bedbugs in the past, but she said she led a protest last year to get the building cleaned up.

"We are bug-free," she declared.

Smith said he had 20 tenants signed up for the free cleanups.

"It's too bad," Smith said. "I guess it was misinformation. But I didn't want to take a chance."

Smith said he'll try to take the group back in May.