Toronto Sun: Woman sleeps on balcony to escape bedbugs

Oct 2nd, 2010 by Ian Robertson in the Toronto Sun

East York resident Lori Howard would dearly love to come in from the cold.

But since bedbugs began biting inside her new flat, she has been sleeping — and changing clothes — on her 10th floor balcony.

“I never had it before,” Howard said Saturday, a day after joining an Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now protest outside the 15-storey privately owned Dawes Rd. building.

ACORN, a tenant activist group, staged the rally to publicize the infestation.

Two days after leaving Vaughan and moving into her new $775-a-month one-bedroom unit, Howard began noticing nasty red bites.

With welts soon all over her body, “I thought I had contracted scabies ... something inside me,” the temporary service factory worker said.

“I’ve seen cockroaches here, but I’ve never found a bedbug ... just blood splotches on my sheets in the morning.


“They’re free with the rent,” Howard, 35, joked, adding “humour is the only way to survive.”

The 3-by-5 mm parasites spread across North America since several insecticides were banned as health hazards more than a decade ago.

Especially voracious at night when drilling for blood to lay eggs after injecting an anesthetic, bedbugs often return to feed every four or five days.

Experts say they don’t pose a health risk unless scratching a wound causes infection, but many victims suffer lasting fears of future, often undetectable attacks.

Toronto MPP Mike Colle held a Queen’s Park forum Wednesday for government, community and landlord representatives to discuss solutions.

“I don’t understand how my boyfriend doesn’t get bitten,” said Howard, who is considering “withholding my rent” until the bloodsuckers are evicted.

“Otherwise, I’ll have to move,” she said.

Despite showering several times a night, changing clothes in her bathtub after neighbours warned they could see her disrobing outside, plus bug killer building staff applied, “they’re still there.”

With nights getting colder, her only relief is occasional sleepovers with friends and refuge offered by ACORN, but “people wonder if I’m carrying them in my clothes.”

Prescribed anti-itch cortisone ointment and anti-depressants, “I have to spend a few dollars on scar cream,” Howard said. “It’s embarrassing.”

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