Residents of the Campello High Rise apartments in Brockton say that their housing complex is plagued by bedbugs, cockroaches, mice, and mold, and that the Brockton Housing Authority needs to do something about it.
Robert Miller, vice president of the tenant association at the complex, says residents picketed on Main Street for several days earlier this month, hoping to raise public awareness about the living conditions there.
Members of the Brockton Housing Authority’s maintenance staff “don’t take care of the property like they used to,” Miller said.
The Campello High Rise, at 1380 Main St., is one of 16 public housing developments in the city run by the housing authority. The 398-unit complex houses disabled and elderly people, and rents vary according to tenants’ income. Miller rents a one-bedroom apartment for less than $400 a month.
On Tuesday, approximately 75 tenants met with representatives of the housing authority to discuss their concerns, and they presented officials with photographs and a lengthy list of complaints.
“It was a very productive meeting,” said Thomas G. Thibeault, assistant executive director of the authority. “It was the beginning of a dialogue to address the concerns of the residents and give them a place they are proud to live in.”
Thibeault said the authority has had two of its full-time maintenance staff members out of work on long-term medical leave, which has left gaps in coverage. “The site has been understaffed for too long,” he said.
In order to address that, the authority is assigning a full-time maintenance person at the Campello High Rise, and overtime has been approved so staff can tackle some of the lingering issues, he said.
Work crews are coming in to clean, repair, and replace damaged rugs, and new windows and doors will be installed soon, Thibeault said. From now on, maintenance staff will also be instructed to fill the soap dispensers in the common area bathrooms and to make sure that toilet paper rolls cannot easily be stolen from the stalls, he said.
Three bedbug-sniffing dogs will be brought in to inspect the Campello High Rise and other developments within the next 30 days, and the housing authority will continue its extermination efforts, he said.
Thibeault also said that steps are being taken to increase communication between residents and the housing authority. Authority officials are going to meet with tenants again Oct. 1, and one of the authority’s asset managers will meet with the tenant association on a monthly basis.
Bedbugs have proven difficult to get rid of at the Campello High Rise. Residents there are elderly or physically handicapped, so they cannot clean their apartments easily. Some have resisted having chemicals applied to their apartments due to assorted physical ailments. There have also been some cases of hoarding, Thibeault said.
The agency’s resident services director is trying to recruit translators to reach out to tenants who do not speak English to educate them about the bedbug issue, Thibeault said.
He said that authority officials are committed to working with tenants. “We both have the same goal: improve the living conditions there and eradicate the pests,” he said.
Dorothy Tosetti, president of the tenant association at the Campello High Rise, said she has lived there with her husband for 11 years and “the last five years it’s really gotten worse.”
The bedbug infestation has increased, and patchwork extermination efforts have not been successful, she said. To her, it seems the bedbugs simply move to the nearest unit that has not been sprayed. In her opinion, drastic measures need to be taken.
“I think they need to move people out,” she said, “and get rid of everything all at once.”
Tosetti said the tenants decided to picket in front of the complex because “we got tired of the condition of the building.” She said that last Tuesday’s meeting “went OK” and that she was glad their concerns were being heard. She is waiting to see what happens.
“Right now they’re mainly doing parts of the building they can fix,” she said. “We’d like our leaks fixed before they put the rugs in.
“They’re doing cosmetics right now, but it’s the bigger things they need to address,” Tosetti said. “The biggest thing is, they have to find a way to get rid of the bedbugs.”
Jass Stewart, an at-large member of the Brockton City Council who is running for state representative, said he was glad to see the “very aggressive timeline” set by the Brockton Housing Authority to address the residents’ complaints.
“I was a bit surprised that the top brass was not aware of these issues . . . and I think they admitted to experiencing a breakdown of communication,” said Stewart, who attended the meeting.
As to whether the meeting was productive, he said he remains cautiously optimistic. “We’ll find out if it was productive in two or three months.”