WARNING: This story contains some graphic images.
Residents at a privately owned residential care facility in London, Ontario say the home at 722 Hamilton Rd is overrun with bed bugs and roaches and they want the owners to provide better cleaning and care.
Ricky Williams, 44, moved into the Bruce Residence in London last December after heart surgery.
“I’ve been bitten so many times. I had wounds all over my body,” he said. “There was blood all over my sheets, on my pillow.
Williams said the cleaning staff wasn’t moving fast enough. He shared a photo of feces spilled on a bathroom floor with CBC News and said it stayed that way for three days.
Ricky Williams, 44, moved into the Bruce Residence in December 2021 following heart surgery. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)
Another resident, Bob Campbell, 73, also shared his concerns.
“I threw a black bonnet on the floor and went to lunch,” said Campbell, who has lived in the group home for 15 months. “When I came back, the black hood was full of bugs.
“You couldn’t even tell it was black anymore. It was copper colored.”
Bob Campbell, 73, has lived at Bruce Residence for 15 months and says bed bugs and roaches are a problem. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)
CBC London contacted Bruce Residence for more information about the facility.
A spokesman, Chief Operating Officer Joe Todd, said it is regulated by the City of London and currently has 47 residents in 49 units.
He said all residents need a little extra help with everyday living, despite living largely independently. Many were once homeless, and almost all participate in the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or receive Canada Pension Plan (CPP) benefits, Todd said.
Sometimes the money goes straight to the facility, other times residents receive it first and then pay their rent.
“Right now it’s mixed, but in the future we will implement a system where we receive these government benefits directly,” he said, raising concerns that some residents are using that money to buy drugs and not pay rent .
Bruce Residence is regulated by the City of London and currently has 47 residents in 49 units, says Chief Operating Officer Joe Todd. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)
Todd said Ethan Eswaran bought the Hamilton Road property three years ago and runs three other similar developments in Strathroy, St Thomas and Mount Brydges.
Todd said Eswaran was unavailable for comment.
“We inherited a lot of those problems,” he said of the bug and cleaning issues at the London facility. “These types of problems in these types of homes take time to fix. We are on.”
How bad are bed bugs? It depends on the room, Todd said. “Some rooms are worse than others, but we have professionals to take care of the situation.”
Todd took charge of the London facility a week ago. So far, he’s hired a new cleaning company and is implementing a new, strict “bed bug and head lice buffer” protocol, he said.
I’ve been bitten so many times. I had wounds all over my body. There was blood all over my sheets and pillow.– Ricky Williams, resident
“When they come into the home, they have to have new clothes,” Todd said. If they don’t have one, staff give them a fresh garment and dry the old ones in a dryer for 20 minutes.
Williams has been struggling with a skin infection on his leg for several weeks. A worker says cellulite has spread through the facility. (Ricky Williams)
That kills bed bugs, Todd said.
Then they will check all hair for bugs and their belongings will be quarantined in a shed for 48 hours, he said.
Morgan Lobzun, a spokesman for the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU), said: “The Health Protection and Promotion Act requires sanitation, drinking water and food safety compliance for meals to be respected. MLHU has been involved in responding to reports of health threats [at Bruce Residence] and as a partner agency within the Vulnerable Occupancy Protocol.”
CBC London also reached out to the city to comment on the complaints.
“In June, this residence was brought to the attention of the Vulnerable Occupant Protocol (VOP) group, which includes bylaw staff, social services and other municipal and provincial partners — and a multi-agency inspection was conducted,” Patti McKague said This was announced by the city administration office in an e-mail. “Both the London Fire Brigade and the City of London Statute have inspected the property. As of August, the city no longer had any active grievances on the property. However, the fire service has an outstanding inspection order and they are tracking compliance.”
The email also said that residents with ongoing problems “should notify their landlord. If issues persist, we encourage them to file a complaint with the city and staff will investigate based on the nature of the complaint.”
McKague’s email said the city does not offer a program to fund private operators.
“Residents who live there may be entitled, depending on their circumstances, to assistance and services, including rental assistance, provided by a variety of community organizations, including those funded by the city. However, this information would be confidential and the city would not have had access to full information about each resident and the support they may or may not receive.”
Long list of concerns
But the bugs aren’t the only problem, said a worker, whom CBC News declined to name because the person feared she would lose her job if she spoke up.
Williams snapped this photo of feces on the floor of a bathroom at the facility. It took staff three days to clean it up, he says. (Ricky Williams)
Bacterial infections are also common, they said, noting that many residents suffer from cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection that causes skin redness, swelling and pain.
“It’s an infection in the leg and it’s contagious. It’s just unsafe there.”
Things have gotten worse since the new owners took over, the worker said.
“It’s sad because there are elderly people, mentally ill people, people who use drugs. People beat up the elderly.
“There is no designated person to distribute medicines, they don’t get them on time, and then residents are sent to the hospital because they don’t get their medicines,” the worker said.
Williams says his family haven’t seen him since he arrived at the Bruce Residence because they feared he was bringing the bed bugs with him. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)
According to Williams and the worker, the food program consists of items like spaghetti and perogies — anything cheap to make, Williams said.
“We only get dinner and two snacks a day. And that’s what we’re supposed to live on,” Williams said. “We’re only allowed 250 milliliters of juice or milk and we can’t ask for seconds.”
In addition, the owners reduce the breakfast.
“We switched to a more continental breakfast so we can eliminate the crowd of staff in the morning,” Todd said. Right now, most residents pay $950 a month to live there, but some pay $777, and that’s not enough to cover all the bills.
Todd said the facility’s financial shortfall is about $200 per resident. The owners have asked the city for help, but so far their request has been denied, he said.
“We have quite a few people who donate,” said Todd, who admitted Bruce Residence is a for-profit company. “We can all do our part to help these people because they are vulnerable.”