Edmonton family pleads for pest-free home

A single mother of four is pleading for a safe place to live after the family's west Edmonton home is overrun with bedbugs and cockroaches.

'We've lost everything. I feel moment to moment I'm just going to crack. I'm exhausted. I'm just so exhausted'

Low-income west Edmonton family struggles with bed bug and cockroach infestations 2:07

Jeddiah Stach scratches at several new bites that have recently appeared on her upper arm.

Old scars dot the eight-year-old's entire body after months of living with a bedbug infestation at her west Edmonton housing complex.

Nevertheless, the little girl dances from room to room trying to keep her mother's spirits up.

"We've lost everything. I feel moment to moment I'm just going to crack," said mom Tina Stach. "I'm exhausted, I'm just so exhausted."

The single mother of four is an AISH recipient and relies on subsidized housing.
Single mother of four Tina Stach is desperate for a new home after ongoing bed bug and cockroach infestations. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The family has lived in the same townhouse-style unit since 2007 with few issues.

In August, Stach says new neighbours moved in and that's when they started experiencing a series of infestations of both bedbugs and cockroaches.

"We started getting them coming out of the vents, upstairs, downstairs and then bedbugs. My daughter started having bites all over her body," she said.

The family has had to go to extreme measures to try and keep the ongoing infestations in check. 

 'Right before Christmas our entire backyard was full of furniture. Everything we had.'- Tina Stach

"We had to get rid of the mattresses in September and then the rest of the house. Right before Christmas our entire backyard was full of furniture, everything we had," said Stach.

"We're talking removing baseboards, we're talking cleaning everything out of the cupboards. Anything that can be open and exposed so they can do these treatments."

All of Stach's four children have been forced to sleep on air mattresses for months and all have had bad reactions to the extermination process.

"They already have asthma and they've had an anaphylactic reaction to the pesticide treatments where we've had to rush them into the Stollery (Children's Hospital) and go on Prednisone to help them breathe," Stach said.
Eight-year-old Jeddiah Stach shows off new bed bug bites on her arm. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

"And it's been constant; constant medical visits so they can keep their lungs in order." 

The family's home has had four pesticide treatments since September with another slated for Monday.

Stach says she's been forced to pay for several herself.

After months of trying to resolve the situation, she's at the end of her rope.

"I'm on a fixed budget and I don't have the money. Everything I have had so far is going to hotel rooms; it's going to driving to medical appointments; to buying bins so we can pack everything so it doesn't continue the infestation," Stach said.
This west Edmonton housing complex has been inundated with bed bugs and cockroaches. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

"I feel shameful because I have all my kids and I feel like we can't tell anyone our problem. You know, bedbugs have such a stigma, and cockroaches. No one wants to associate with you," she said, struggling to speak through tears.

"And then your kids are going through such emotional stress where they want to run away from home because no one's hearing us. We've been crying out and I feel like no one hears us. I just want to be heard."

A place to call home

Gloria Biccum, a registered nurse, has worked with the Stach family for a few years.

"When I met Tina there was a vibrancy about her and there was life in her and a shine in her eyes," she recalled. "And now she's feeling so exhausted and depleted and that's just sad."

As a single mom herself, she felt compelled to be there for the family on a personal level.
Registered nurse Gloria Biccum volunteers to support the Stach family as they deal with an ongoing bed bug infestation.

"She needs a new place to live in because this is not going away. None of this is going away. The children don't have a place to sleep, there's sleep deprivation. School's being affected," Biccum said. 

"To not have a home and be able to protect your children. That feels very threatening. And that's just devastating to anyone's spirit."  

Greg Dewling, the CEO Capital Region Housing, which manages the Stach's housing complex, says he wasn't previously aware of the family's plight, but says dealing with pests is always challenging.

"We'll certainly follow up with this family in particular and try to get a plan in place to make sure these pests are taken care of," he said.

With few options left and money running out, help can't come soon enough.

"I want to get a new home, one where we're healthy, where there's enough room that we can have beds again and furniture we don't have to concern ourselves with and having to leave every two weeks for treatments," Stach said.