Residents of High Rise for Seniors in Harrisburg Say it's Infested with Bed Bugs
Friday, July 27, 2012
Beressa Mayo extended her right forearm, pointing to the small,
indelible dark marks up and down her arm.
The 75-year-old said they are bite marks from the bedbugs
infesting her Harrisburg apartment.
"This was a nice place. I like it here. We enjoy one another,"
Mayo said. "But [those] things have been eating me up."
Mayo lives at Presbyterian Apartments Inc., a 23-story
senior-living facility at 322 N. Second St. in downtown
Mayo and other highrise residents said that bedbugs have been a
problem for at least a year and that the owners have done little to
exterminate the pests.
The building's owner, Dillsburg-based nonprofit Presbyterian
Senior Living, claims that the apartments are routinely treated for
insects and that when bedbugs are reported, the situation is
At Presbyterian Apartments, when a bedbug problem is reported, at
minimum, three treatments three weeks apart are conducted, said
Steve Knaub, the facility's property manager.
"Every unit receives four [standard pest control] treatments per
year. We don't hesitate to provide treatment for bedbugs," Knaub
said. "The comfort and well-being of our residents remains our top
Presbyterian Apartments, which opened in 1967, has 165 apartments.
Seniors 62 and older are eligible to live in the apartments.
Bedbugs, which are small rust-colored insects that feed on human
blood, are not a new problem in Harrisburg.
Several years ago, they forced the closure of Tara Station, a bar
on South Fourth Street that was in a building that had to be
fumigated after bedbugs infested the apartments in the upper
floors. Though the problem was treated, the bar closed.
The insects also were reported at Camp Curtin School during the
past school year.
Bedbugs usually are transported into buildings via luggage,
bedding and clothing.
Even though bedbugs multiply and spread quickly, the Pennsylvania
Department of Health doesn't intervene when they are reported in
buildings because they are not known to carry diseases, said Thomas
Hostetter, a department spokesman.
It's up to municipalities to track and oversee the remediation of
bedbugs, Hostetter said.
Harrisburg's Bureau of Codes will step in if the city receives
documented bedbug complaints, said Robert Philbin, spokesman for
Mayor Linda Thompson.
A codes officer will issue a series of warnings and sanctions. And
if a building owner doesn't remediate the problem, the city will
placard it as a building unfit for human habitation and shut it
down, Philbin said.
While Philbin said the city has not received any complaints about
Presbyterian Apartments, one former resident, Bob Powers, said he
plans to contact Harrisburg officials.
Powers said he left his apartment on the 13th floor of the
building three months after moving there in January due to the
bedbug problem. He said he lost a brand-new $700 couch and a
recliner after bedbugs infested his furniture.
Presbyterian Senior Living offered to treat the couch, but Powers
said the furniture was ruined and he wants to be reimbursed.
Powers, who is living with his sister in Carlisle until he finds a
house, said he hopes the situation is addressed for residents who
are on fixed incomes and don't have the means to move out.
"This, to me, is an ongoing problem, and when you come here as a
new tenant you should be made aware there is a possibility you may
get [bedbugs]," Powers said. "I hope that they can address this
problem for these people in this building. Some of the folks are
kind of poor souls. They just don't have the means, and I hope they
resolve the problem for their sake."
Knaub said Presbyterian Senior Living policy prevented him from
commenting on Powers' situation or that of any other resident
living in the building.
William Shannon and his wife have been residents for 11
Shannon, 70, said he has not found bedbugs in his apartment, but
many of his neighbors have, and one friend had them on his neck and
back on Monday.
"There is a problem. [My neighbor] had it on his clothes, and his
neck is all tore up and bit up. He reported it this morning,"
Mayo, who has lived at the Presbyterian Apartments for more than
three years, said bedbugs are in her couch and ruined her bed
She said she has had bedbugs for about a year and Presbyterian
Senior Living has treated her apartment twice, but the bedbugs have
not gone away.
"[My mattress] was like new. It looks terrible now," Mayo said. "I
like staying here. I like the apartment I'm in. But I have
[bedbugs] on my bed and in my closet and on my pillow."