Several tenants at Halifax's Sunrise Manor are still living with bedbugs and cockroaches, despite a $4 million pest-control management plan put in place by a provincial agency that manages the manor.
"Anxiety attacks are just like unbelievable," said Deb Jesseau, who has lived in the 165-unit building on Gottingen Street for four years.
"You know, I can just feel like crawling right out of my skin, because I feel that sometimes when [my friends and neighbours] come I'm afraid there's going to be a bedbug or a cockroach on them."
Housing Nova Scotia, the provincial agency that oversees management of Sunrise Manor, targeted 1,000 units in eight buildings in the Halifax Regional Municipality for pest control.
Spokesman Stephen Richard said new bedbug-proof baseboards have been installed in hundreds of units, they've increased tenant education about pest control, and they've put together two dedicated pest-control teams who visit apartments to make sure they are free from bedbugs.
Richard said since the program launched last year, the housing authority is receiving fewer complaints about bedbugs. But he admits the problem is not solved.
"I don't think it's possible. It's part of high-traffic areas and multi-unit buildings, and you know you will deal with these situations," Richard said.
Everything in plastic bins
Jesseau's apartment is frequently sprayed for bedbugs and she has the new bedbug-proof baseboards, but she still has bedbugs, cockroaches and mice.
She wraps her couch, her chairs and her mattress in plastic and all her clothing is stored in plastic bins.
"It's not just me. It's everybody else in the building. Some of them had lost all of their furniture. I was lucky not to lose so much," she said. "They're living in low-rental housing and you can't afford to go out and buy your own furniture all over again."
Jesseau said living with bedbugs and cockroaches is socially isolating. Her friends and neighbours don't visit her and her home-care workers won't come in when there are bedbugs in her apartment.
Wayne Johnson has lived in Sunrise Manor for seven years. He keeps his apartment extremely clean, but said it's an ongoing battle with the pests. He's thrown out three bedbug-infested beds and now sleeps on an air mattress because it's easier to clean.
"It's a terrible way to live. You know it doesn't matter how clean you are," he said.
"Once they come, they're there, and you have to wait for someone to come in and fumigate. And then after they fumigate it's just a matter of a period of time and [the bedbugs are] back."
He said he's seen some improvements in the past couple of years and since the new baseboards went in, but the creatures still crawl through vents or under doors to get in.
Working toward a pest-free building
Housing Nova Scotia's Stephen Richard said it disturbs him to hear that people are living in such conditions.
"We want every tenant to live in a pest-free environment and we'll continue to work really hard so that our tenants can live in units that are in good condition. It just means we need to continue to work really hard at the issue," he said.