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Bed bugs dividing families.

Glenna Murdoch who lives in a seniors complex in Ottawa, is a victim of bed bugs. First, I would like to congratulate Ms. Murdoch for talking about bed bugs, too many people turn a blind eye and keep there bed bug problem a secret which doesn't help reduce the spread. People need to be aware and educated about bed bugs. In this case, Glenna Murdoch's children, grandchildren and great grandchildren no longer want to visit her and she has forbidden the younger grandchildren and great grandchildren from visiting her in fear of transmitting bed bugs. “If they ever did catch anything, well, how could I live with myself?” she asks. This behaviour is not uncommon from resident at 160 Charlotte, many other residents have told their families the same thing.

This is however not uncommon behaviour for bed bugs, they feast in multi-residential complexes where they can go from home room to the next and feed. Last year, the Ottawa Community Housing has spent over $770 000 on travel and research to better understand bed bug behaviour and the affects on its victims. 

Our recommendation to Glenna and all residents of 160 Charlotte:

  • Equip yourself with a mattress cover
  • Pull your bed away from the wall
  • Place intercepting traps under the legs of your bed
  • Keep a clutter free living space
  • Place detection traps around the bed
  • And spray using chemical free products on a regular basis. 

 

Ottawa grandmother fighting bed bugs - Ottawa Sun - October 6th 2013

Glenna Murdoch has six great-grandchildren and seven grandchildren. She dotes on them and considers herself a lucky grandmother — most of the children still live in Ottawa.

Yet none will visit her anymore. Some have made that decision themselves. Others, the youngest, Murdoch has forbade from coming.

“If they ever did catch anything, well, how could I live with myself?” she asks.

Because there’s no good answer to that question her family stays away. Maybe you can’t blame them. People tend to get nervous around bed bugs.

Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) will be talking about bed bugs this Thursday when it releases a report on how its “pest management strategy” is working.

Expect a lot of talk about “best practices” and “incident reports” and “unit readiness.” But if you really want to know what is going on, then come down to Glenna Murdoch’s building — 160 Charlotte.

Charlotte Place is a 216-unit seniors building owned and operated by Ottawa Community Housing. You need to be sixty or older to live there. A great many of the tenants are women like Murdoch — widows, living on CPP and Old Age Security.

How bad is the bed-bug problem at 160 Charlotte? Well, I happened to be there on garbage day, the day of the week tenants in the building get to throw out bug-infested furniture.

On the curb in front of the seniors’ home I counted ten mattresses.

“Every week there’s some mattresses in front of the building,” says tenant Shean Kelly. “It freaks you out a little, just knowing those bugs are around.”

It freaks everyone out. During my visit I spoke to a half-dozen residents of the home, all of who have had bed bugs in their apartments at one time or another. It makes them shiver just talking about it.

“It is ugly, and not clean, this bug,” says 74-year-old Lucy Couture. “I never have problems like this before. It is all new to me, living like this.”

Like Murdoch and 71-year-old Lynn Lafontaine — three women I found sitting together in a commons room in Charlotte Place — Couture has forbidden her family from visiting.

“It is best I go and visit them,” she says. “I am ashamed to have them come to my apartment.”

All three women said they were ashamed to talk about their bed bug problem with family members, or strangers. It broke your heart to hear these women talk about shame and guilt, as if they were somehow to blame for what is happening to them.

In comparison to some of its other properties, the executive director of tenant services for OCH says the bed bug situation at Charlotte Place is “not severe.”

“We don’t think Charlotte is at a level that requires additional effort,” says Laurene Wagner. “In comparison to some other properties, and what we’ve seen in that building in the past, it is not a severe problem.”

Wagner went on to say OCH has a pest management strategy that relies on people reporting cockroach or bed-beg problems, then hiring private companies to come in and “treat” the infestation.

Many units are treated two or three times after an “incident report.” The corporation also spends a lot of time on “education” and “awareness” programs. It tells tenants how to prepare their homes for treatments. Hands out plastic covers for the old mattresses.

Wagner assures me OCH is following “best practices” when it comes to eradicating bed bugs — they apparently travel around doing a lot of research on the subject — and the corporation spent $770,000 just last year on pest management.

All of which frightened me. The casual, business-as-usual way in which we were talking about this problem. Couldn’t stop thinking about seniors so stressed they don’t sleep at night and no longer have visitors.

We need to do better. I’m going to leave you with some questions you can feel free to ask any OCH board member this Thursday:

If you owned a home and had a bed bug problem, would you fix ANYTHING before you fixed that bed bug problem?

Would you talk about ANYTHING before you talked about that bed bug problem?

Would you really wake up one morning all bitten and bloody and think — “I need to clean the eaves today.”

The best practices aren’t working. It’s time to solve this problem.


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