Residents at London, Ont., care facility say bedbug, cockroach problem persists as they face rent hike | CBC News


Residents at a private care facility in London, Ont., say they’re facing a big rent hike as bugs continue to run rampant, while a spokesperson for Bruce Residence says it could still be weeks before the bugs are eradicated. 

Both residents and workers recently expressed concerns about the bug problem CBC News detailed in September.

“We got bad bedbugs. We got bad cockroaches. It’s bad,” said Chuck Pearce, 57.

Pearce has been living at the facility on Hamilton Road for two years after a traumatic head injury landed him in hospital. He now suffers from occasional seizures.

Rent has increased. It’s inflation. We’re a business after all.– Joe Todd, Bruce Residence

He gets a $1,090 Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) cheque each month. Until recently, he was paying $800 for rent, but that’s going up by $200, leaving Pearce with less than $100 after his food and housing bills are paid.

“We have nobody 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 increased. It’s inflation,” said Joe Todd, a spokesperson for Bruce Residence who’s also the chief operating officer.

“We’re a business after all.”

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

At the time CBC News first spoke to residents about the bug infestation, Todd said Bruce Residence owner Ethan Eswaran would not be available to comment. Todd admitted there was a bug problem, but said he was new to the position and planned to work at addressing it.

“We’ve got some new cleaning staff on board and they’re doing an amazing job,” Todd, who continues to act as spokesperson for Bruce Residence, told CBC News this week. “Everything’s clean and spic and span. We got a new pest control service in and they’re checking monthly. It’s going a lot better.”

Walking in the kitchen, you could see them in the kitchen, the cockroaches. They were everywhere.– Christina Corey, Former house manager

Todd said he hopes the facility could totally eradicate the bug problem by January.

City of London spokesperson Jo Ann Johnson said staff inspected the facility in early October and there is still an outstanding order that the owner needs to address, although she wouldn’t say what it is.

Todd wouldn’t say either.

“That’s between the owner and the city. It’s not anyone’s concern.”

Bruce Residence, shown in this photo, has ‘a new pest control service in and they’re checking monthly. It’s going a lot better,’ says the chief operating officer. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)

Chasing down rent

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

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

The bugs were everywhere, said Corey.

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

In 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 hand out medications, as did other staff, she said.

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

“I was shocked by that as well,” said Corey. “The meds just get delivered to the kitchen and the kitchen staff who have zero training are handing out medication.”

Corey also recalls talking to facility owner 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 need to change the rent and you need to chase everyone down that owes rent,’ and that’s all he cared about, was the money part, right?

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

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

Ongoing problems

“My bedbugs 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 occupy my top drawer and if I have food in the room, they get into it.”

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

“I’m getting bit so bad [by bugs] and I can’t go to sleep. It drives me nuts,” said tenant Ricky Williams, 44. He moved into the building after undergoing heart surgery in December 2021.

Williams’s legs are covered in blotchy red and purple marks — bedbugs wounds, he said.

“They keep getting bigger and bigger, and this one swelled right up,” he said. “Orange and yellow juice started leaking out of me. Both legs —they’re bad.”

Ricky Williams shows the wounds on his legs that he believes have been caused by bedbugs. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)

Private member’s bill to be tabled 

“We’re really concerned about vulnerable persons and the way that they’re being taken advantage of in these facilities,” said NDP Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch.

Next week, Burch hopes to table a private member’s bill at Queen’s Park. It’s called The Protecting Vulnerable Persons in Supportive Living Accommodation Bill, which would license the dozens of private care facilities in the province.

Burch figures there are more than 30 provincially unregulated homes in Ontario. Some, like Bruce Residence, are licensed through municipal bylaws, and others aren’t licensed. All of them, he argues, would be better served if the province oversaw them.

Burch’s bill would include a complaint and inspection protocol, and also fine owners daily if their facilities aren’t provincially licensed.

The NDP first tabled the legislation in 2018, and again in 2020, but each time was unsuccessful. Burch is hopeful 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 are suffering from some pretty serious conditions.”


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