Residents of London, Ont., care facility say bedbug and cockroach problem persists as they face rent hike

Residents of a private care facility in London, Ont., say they face a steep rent hike as bugs continue to plague, while a spokesperson for Bruce Residence says it could still be weeks before the insects are eradicated.

Residents and workers have recently expressed concerns about the bug issue CBC News detailed in September.

“We have bad bedbugs. We have bad cockroaches. This is bad,” said Chuck Pearce, 57.

Pearce has lived in the Hamilton Road facility for two years after a head injury took him to hospital. He now suffers from occasional seizures.

The rent has gone up. It’s inflation. We are a business after all.– Joe Todd, Residence Bruce

He receives a monthly check from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) for $1,090. Until recently, he paid $800 for rent, but that increases by $200, leaving Pearce with less than $100 after his food and housing bills are paid.

“We don’t have anyone to help us at all,” he said.

Bruce Residence is an informal residential care facility, which is a municipal classification. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)

“Rent has gone up. That’s inflation,” said Joe Todd, spokesman for Bruce Residence, who is also the chief operating officer.

“We are a business after all.”

The Bruce Residence is regulated by a City of London by-law and has 49 units — right now 13 or 14 beds are empty, Todd said.

When CBC News first spoke to residents about the bug infestation, Todd said Bruce Residence owner Ethan Eswaran would not be available for comment. Todd admitted there was a bug issue, but said he was new to the post and planned to work on fixing it.

“We have new cleaning staff on board and they are doing an amazing job,” Todd, who continues to act as a spokesperson for Bruce Residence, told CBC News this week. “Everything is clean and spotless. We have a new pest control department and they check every month. It’s much better.”

Walking in the kitchen, you could see them in the kitchen, the cockroaches. They were everywhere.– Christina Corey, former Head of House

Todd said he hopes the install can completely eradicate the bug issue by January.

City of London spokeswoman Jo Ann Johnson said staff inspected the facility in early October and there was still an outstanding order for the owner to deal with, although it had not didn’t want to say what it was about.

Todd wouldn’t say either.

“It’s between the owner and the city. It’s nobody’s business.”

Bruce Residence, shown in this photo, has “a new pest control department and they check every month”. It’s much better,” says the COO. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)

Hunt for rent

Christina Corey, a personal support worker (PSW) of 14 years, started working as a house manager at Bruce Residence last month but quit after just a week on the job.

“Everything was a mess when I walked in,” she said.

Bugs were everywhere, Corey said.

“They were all different sizes. Big ones. Little ones. People even had them on their walkers.”

During the short time Corey worked at the residence, she was responsible for hiring cooks and cleaners and bringing in more tenants. She also had to distribute medicine, as did other staff, she said.

Christina Corey worked as a personal coach for 14 years. She recently accepted a job as a house manager at Bruce Residence, but quit after a week. (Submitted by Christina Corey)

“That shocked me as well,” Corey said. “Medicines are just delivered to the kitchen and kitchen staff who have no training dispense medicines.”

Corey also remembers talking to the owner of the establishment, Ethan Eswaran, about the tenants’ rent.

Eswaran bought the property on Hamilton Road three years ago and runs three other similar residential facilities, in Strathroy, St. Thomas and Mount Brydges.

“His conversations were, ‘You gotta change the rent and you gotta kick out everybody who owes rent,’ and that’s all he cared about, was the money part of it, right? ?

“Some of them didn’t even have money left for their medications which they were also paying for. And they didn’t get proper rent increase notices,” she said. declared.

Ricky Williams, 44, moved into Bruce Residence in December 2021 after undergoing heart surgery. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)

Persistent issues

“My bed bugs are gone but unfortunately the cockroaches have taken over,” said Bob Campbell, 73, who has lived at Bruce Residence for about a year and a half. “They take over my top drawer and if I have food in the room, they come in.”

Campbell’s rent isn’t changing because he was already paying more than most people, he said.

“I get a little so bad [by bugs] and I can’t sleep. It drives me crazy,” said tenant Ricky Williams, 44. He moved into the building after undergoing heart surgery in December 2021.

Williams’ legs are covered in red and purple spots – wounds from bed bugs, he said.

“They just keep getting bigger and this one bloated,” he said. “Orange and yellow juices started pouring out of me. Both legs, they’re bad.”

Ricky Williams shows the wounds on his legs that he says were caused by bed bugs. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)

Private member’s bill to be tabled

“We are really concerned about vulnerable people and how they are being exploited in these facilities,” said Jeff Burch, NDP MP for Niagara Center.

Next week, Burch hopes to introduce a private member’s bill at Queen’s Park. It’s the Protecting Vulnerable People in Supportive Housing Bill, which would license the province’s dozens of private care facilities.

According to Burch, there are more than 30 non-provincially regulated homes in Ontario. Some, like Bruce Residence, are permitted by municipal bylaws, and others are not permitted. All, he argues, would be better served if the province supervised them.

Burch’s bill would include a complaint and inspection protocol, as well as daily fines to homeowners if their facilities are not licensed by the province.

The NDP first introduced the bill in 2018, then in 2020, but each time without success. Burch hopes this round will be different.

“We’re trying to put partisan politics aside and convince the government to do the right thing. It’s not about politics, it’s about people who have pretty serious illnesses.”

About Antoine L. Cassell

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