Fort Worth tenants surrender to bed bug infestation



Posted on April 1, 2010 at 9:55 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 1 at 10:50 PM

Bed bug infestation

View larger map

FORT WORTH — A tiny enemy, only about the size of an apple seed, is costing Fort Worth residents their homes.

It is costing the government more than half a million dollars.

The culprit? Bed bugs, which have taken over a downtown building.

More than 200 people used to live at the Fort Worth Housing Authority's Hunter Plaza complex at 605 West 1st Street.  It has long been home to elderly and disabled tenants.

But after a year of battling bed bugs, the agency is declaring defeat.

Vernida McMorris moved into Hunter Plaza just six months ago. On Thursday, she couldn't wait to get out.

McMorris pointed to the lesions on her face which she said were caused by the bed bugs. "They itch, and they get under your skin," she said.

Fort Worth Housing Authority spokeswoman Alice Sykes took photos of dead bed bugs found in the building. For a year, the housing authority has tried to end the infestation by doing everything from ripping out the carpet to paying for a steam treatment.

More than half a million dollars later, the bed bugs have not surrendered.

Social workers have begun the process of moving Hunter Plaza's 219 residents, giving them Section 8 vouchers for alternative housing.

The biggest challenge now is making sure the tiny bloodsuckers don't move with them.

Every item is taken through a "rapid freeze" process before it can leave the property.

The 36-year-old building will be fumigated once all residents have left. A housing authority spokesman said it is too soon to say what will become of Hunter Plaza.