Last week I went to Colorado for the first time. What a great place!
Specifically, I was in Denver at the National Healthy Homes Conference. I spent three days with people who are making homes healthier—and loving it. Everyone was motivating and inspiring. The resounding message was: each of us has the potential, in our day-to-day work, to make a difference.
The initiatives that stood out to me as being well-represented were asthma, radon, smoke-free, weatherization, and IPM (I may be biased on the last one!). To see details of the program and contact information of people involved, see the conference website at: http://www.healthyhomesconference.org/. I believe the conference organizers do plan on posting presentations online.
I attended the last Healthy Homes Conference in 2008. In ’08 I remember making the case for IPM as part of a healthy home. Just a few years later, IPM was mentioned in at least one plenary speech! It was great to talk with people at our booth and hear them explain how IPM fits into what they do. Now, more than ever, I believe that an IPM program can be an umbrella under which many other health issues are addressed.
The Northeastern IPM Center had a lot going on at this year’s conference. We had a poster up about the IPM in Multifamily Housing Training program and a booth where attendees could inspect for (dead) bed bugs and get information on IPM. I had the opportunity to talk with a lot of people about this program and met some of you who subscribe to this blog! Even Fox News showed interest: http://www.kdvr.com/news/kdvr-experts-converge-in-denver-to-discuss-healthy-homes-20110620,0,164216.story. Hopefully a few of the connections will result in training at housing authorities in 2012.
We had four speakers sharing their success stories and advice.
1. I spoke about IPM and bed bugs. The bed bug session included about 40 minutes of Q&A. Lots of health inspectors attended who were concerned about bed bugs hitchhiking home with them or getting in their cars. We discussed strategies such as choosing clothing and shoes without cuffs or folds, avoiding upholstered furniture while working in homes, changing into a new set of shoes and clothes before returning home, and laundering items that may have bed bugs on them.
2. One of the property managers who received training in November 2009 spoke about the IPM program at her property. They focused on case management—identifying where the infestations exist through inspection and monitoring and then focusing staff time and resources on these homes or areas. Three of the many strategies she discussed were:
- To get her maintenance department involved and excited about IPM, she involved them in case management. If a resident’s unit was identified as a focus unit, one maintenance tech was assigned to work with the resident and property manager until the pest (and underlying maintenance) issues were resolved. The tech didn’t have to do all the work, he was just the main contact for the resident. Responsibilities of the PHA, resident, and pest control contractor were defined. This system gave the resident a point of contact, increased communication between all parties, and gave the maintenance tech a feeling of accomplishment when the situation in the home improved.
- One working mother resident had adult children living at home and making messes. The mother couldn’t keep up with housekeeping on her own and couldn’t get her kids to do their part. Repeated failed housekeeping is cause for eviction and the mother was afraid she was going to get evicted because of her kids’ behavior. She and the property manager put their heads together (case management). Rather than only serving the violation notice to the mother (head of household), the property manager created violation notices for the adult children too—detailing what they had to do to keep their mom from getting evicted. These notices got them to cooperate!
- A young working mother was living with pests in a messy home. After having a conversation with her, it became apparent she simply had never been taught how to clean and did not know the expectations for housekeeping. The site’s peer educator (a resident trained to help her peers with housekeeping and pest issues) showed the resident how to clean. Specifically, she used tape to box off a square on the wall, on a counter, on the stove, etc. The peer educator cleaned inside the box—showing the resident. Then she gave the resident a week to make outside the taped area match the inside. Over the course of a few months they worked together and got the entire home organized in a sustainable way—teaching the resident where to let the kids eat, how to keep up with cleaning, etc. The team (including the resident) took before and after pictures. This story was really powerful. The resident and the property manager have both shed tears of joy over the improvement.
3. A PhD from Boston University spoke about the importance of identifying symptoms of mental health and aging so that residents get the help they need both from housing and from health professionals. Her presentation is worth looking at. Download NHHC _Bratiotis 6.2011
4. The head of maintenance from one of the larger housing authorities trained in 2011 spoke about the benefits his PHA has seen from focusing on the make-ready process for vacant units—getting homes not only pest-free, but pest-proof before the new resident moves in. They no longer paint over frass, grease, old cockroach bait, and old caulking. They clean, repair, and use silicone caulk in the kitchen and bathroom before painting. Their in-house pest management professional places monitors throughout the unit and services or makes recommendations accordingly. A unit is not ready for occupation until the monitors go two nights pest-free. The hardest part of implementing IPM this way was to oversee the maintenance contractors to ensure they did not cut corners when making repairs. Now the word is out that PHA doesn’t tolerate imperfection and they don’t have to make contractors re-do work as much. The bottom line for this PHA is that, although this system costs the maintenance department a lot more right now, it is worth it. They reduced pesticide use by 50%, infestations are down 50%, The pest control cost is down 40%, resident-generated work orders are down, and residents who move into these exceptionally prepared units believe in the PHA’s zero-pest policy. They see the empty monitors in their new home, get IPM training as part of their orientation, and report when they do see a pest.
It was a fantastic week. Not just because of the informative talks, but because of the networking that went on. I want to thank HUD’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control and USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture for funding this project and allowing us to bring together the PHA staff to share their success stories. And I want to thank the PHA staff for being such wonderful, inspiring ambassadors for IPM!