JOLIET – The Housing Authority of Joliet has been getting the bedbugs out of Adlai Stevenson Gardens, where 40 apartments and the lobby itself were infested.
The authority has been dealing with bedbug problems off and on at its units for about a year-and-a-half, but the flare-up at Adlai Stevenson Gardens on Stryker Avenue was particularly severe, said Mark Jakielski, chief operating officer for public housing programs.
The cushioned sofa and chairs in the lobby area had to be destroyed a couple of weeks ago and will be replaced with what Jakielski called "bedbug-resistant furniture."
"It had gotten to the point that they were crawling through the furniture and in the furniture," Jakielski said.
The housing authority had reduced the number of infested apartments down to seven "and then three became re-infested again," Jakielski said.
The Stevenson building has 177 apartments.
The authority is telling residents not to visit apartments known to be infested so as not to spread bedbugs to other units. But other Stevenson units are not the only source of the problem, Jakielski said.
"It's coming through everywhere," Jakielski told the authority board Wednesday while reporting on the Stevenson bedbug situation. "It's coming in from residents. It's coming in from non-residents. It's coming from family. It's coming in from friends."
Housing authority officials have stepped up an information campaign in recent weeks, including issuing a news release about the recent increase of bedbug infestation in the United States and its arrival on housing authority properties.
"The key to that is education, education, education of the residents," CEO Michael Simelton said.
Housing Commissioner Robert Hernandez said bedbugs are "a major issue."
He said raising awareness is important, noting it was hard to keep some people away from the lobby furniture after it had been identified as infested but before it was destroyed.
"There were residents around the roped area that were trying to get in," he said.
Jakielski said the plush furniture in the lobby was popular but it also provided spaces for bedbugs to habitate.
"We're going to purchase furniture that is comfortable," he said. "But these lobbies were not designed for people to sit there all day and all night long."
The housing authority also is replacing the lobby carpet with tile.