Student homeless due to bed bug infestation

Housing blitz continues to uncover University Heights’ dirty secrets

On October 14, 2012

  • Senior pyschology major Jordan Little can’t live in his Merrimac home because it is infested with bed bugs. Alexa Strudler///The Spectrum
  • Charles Didio, a city inspector, finds remnants of a raw sewage backup in the basement of 49 Merrimac St. Alexa Strudler///The Spectrum

Jordan Little has been homeless since late August. His Merrimac home is infested with bed bugs.

 Little and his two roommates have paid $3,000 collectively in rent since August for a house they could never live in.

The landlord made them pay for the extermination, which wasn't done correctly. Little, a senior psychology major, said he signed the lease during the last week of July for 97 Merrimac St. He and his roommates paid rent through September. Director of Off-Campus Student Services Dan Ryan and Buffalo city inspectors met Little, along with other students in troubled Heights homes, during Saturday's housing blitz on Merrimac Street.

Little told them he now sleeps on his friend's couch. He is working to break his lease because he has already emptied his pockets for his uninhabitable home.

"[The landlord] said he needed the money in order to pay for the extermination," Little said. "I expected [the exterminator] to spray everything, but he only sprayed the bedrooms. After that, my roommate still got bit."

The extermination was done improperly and likely not by a professional, according to Charles Didio, a Buffalo city building inspector.

As of now, it is unknown where Little's former roommates are living.

 Little, an aspiring singer known by his stage name, Jayo LeGrand, doesn't have family he can stay with locally. He and his parents are trying to figure out the next best step - but Little is concerned by the high prices of North Campus apartments.

"I didn't expect things to be like this for the first semester but it is what it is," Little said. "I'm not fed up with the Heights. I'm just more cautious now."

Little, who is active on campus, has the new hassle of dealing with an unpredictable schedule. He doesn't have a key to where he is currently staying, so he has to live on his friends' time.

He said he moved into his house the first week of August and went back to his home in New York City until the new semester began. When he returned, he learned his apartment was infested. After back and forth phone calls, emails and texts with his landlord, who he only knows as "Victor," the house was exterminated on Sept. 8. But the job was done poorly.

Every room in his home is stripped bare. There is a thick dusting of an unknown pesticide on the bedroom floors.

  Hundreds of dollars worth of bedding and furniture are scattered around the side porch and backyard of the residence because of the infestation.

 Little is frustrated by all the waste. 

 Didio explained the average size of an adult bed bug is the size of a bean and the bugs can spread rapidly throughout a dwelling.

 "We don't usually see them in Buffalo," Didio said "They more than likely came from somewhere else and were brought here, but there is really no way to tell how they got there."

According to Didio, the duplex - which used to be the home of six people - will not be habitable until the entire house is treated, not just the bedrooms on the top floor.

"I've just got to figure out where I'm moving now," Little said. "I mean, I can't stay on a couch forever."

Bed bugs weren't the only issues uncovered during Saturday's blitz.

 An inspection of 240 Merrimac St. revealed serious plumbing and heating issues.

Residents Zhen Pan and Seng Gao, second-year electrical engineering graduate students, were unaware that debris surrounding an open pipe in their basement floor was hardened raw sewage.

While Didio discovered the telltale signs of a previous sewage back up, the steady rhythm of a drip could be heard inside the basement.

In addition, someone attached a lower-grade plastic drain to the outside of the apartment building - instead of the commonly used and universally required heat-rated PVC boiler exhaust.

"[The plastic drain] is homemade and not meant to do that," Didio said.

Residents of 49 Merrimac St. have been dealing with heating duct holes, plumbing problems and vandalism since they moved to the Heights in June.

 According Sean McGiveron, a junior exercise science major, Jeremy Dunn, his landlord, does not respond to his tenants' complaints in a timely manner.

 "I don't want to say he's bad, but he's definitely lacking," McGiveron said.

An inspection of McGiveron's basement confirmed his concerns. Segments of the heating ducts were held together with towels and bandages. Basement windows were broken, creating drafts and safety concerns.

McGiveron's roommate, Benjamin DiCesare - a junior accounting major - is concerned about mold and mildew from the constant toilet flooding into their basement.

"So we called [Dunn], and he really didn't do anything about it until weeks later when he popped in at 8 a.m. one morning without notice," DiCesare said.

McGiveron said the only good part about living in the Heights is it's close to South Campus.

 "The area is not good at all," McGiveron said. "My car just got vandalized. Someone threw a garden gnome into my car window and smashed it. I mean, who does that?"

Most violations during the Merrimac Housing Blitz were minor - like the continued misuse of hasp locks, lack of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and lack of handrails on stairwells.

They were more fortunate than Little, who is still searching for a safe place to live.



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