Bed bugs bugging seniors at Vancouver social housing complex

B.C. Housing notes 'rigorous bed bug eradication program' at Steeves Manor

Some seniors at a B.C. Housing complex in West Point Grey say the bed bug problem in their formerly pest-free building is out of control.

Longtime Steeves Manor resident Colleen OBrien says she wasnt aware of any problems with the blood-sucking pests prior to a move by B.C. Housing several years ago to allow the hard to house, including homeless people who once lived in neighbouring Jericho Park, to take up residency.

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B.C. Housing was good enough to give me a home, said OBrien, who has lived at Steeves for 13 years. But lately it hasnt felt like much of one. And the bed bugs have everyone scared.

For more than three decades Steeves Manor was a subsidized housing complex for seniors and tenants living with a disability. Several years ago, B.C. Housing broadened the term disability to include drug and alcohol addicts, many with a dual diagnosis including mental illness who are considered hard to house. In the past 18 months, the Courier spoke with numerous tenants from Steeves Manor who blame the bed bug influx on the new transient population.

Comments left on the Bedbug Registry appear to back that up. The Bedbug Registry is a website where alleged cases of bed bugs across North America can be reported, sometimes anonymously. It includes a blog with links to news stories and recent information regarding the pests. Comments on the Bedbug Registry related to Steeves Manor begin Sept. 1, 2009 and increase substantially over time with the most recent dated Jan. 1, 2012. In total, there are seven pages of comments related to Steeves, including one from last October that reads in part, Last week all [four] couches were removed from the lobby, reportedly because they were infested with bedbugs by the less cleanly tenants who sit on them for hours to watch TV. No wonder elderly tenants are afraid to leave their apartments

OBrien added ongoing construction at Steeves has also created a rodent infestation, which has been a common complaint heard by the Courier from many Steeves residents during the past 18 months. In response, OBrien adopted a catnicknamed Thugs Bunny in tribute to its mousing abilities.

I have a dog to keep me warm, but now I also have a cat to keep the rats away, OBrien told the Courier.

But OBrien has been told by B.C. Housing the cat contravenes the buildings one-pet policy and she is in breach of her tenancy agreement. OBrien says until the rodent problem has been resolved, the cat should be allowed to stay.

B.C. Housing told the Courier in an email it has a one-pet policy at Steeves and OBrien has until Jan. 16 to remove her cat.

B.C. Housing also responded to questions from the Courier regarding bed bugs at Steeves Manor. B.C. Housing wrote that while tenants cant be evicted for repeatedly having bed bugs, they can be asked to leave if they dont cooperate during treatment for the pests.

As for the tenants suspicions the bedbug problem is largely due to a more transient population at the complex, B.C. Housing responded with, Residents at Steeves Manor must meet our eligibility criteriaalso, a health services coordinator speaks with applicants to ensure they can live independently and be near the supports they need Bed bug infestations are not just a concern at Steeves Manor, the appearance of bed bugs is becoming more common in private and public sector housing developments across North America and we have developed a thorough and rigorous bedbug eradication program to address the issue.

Twitter: @sthomas10

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