Nunavik housing agency takes aim at bedbug infestations
“Tenants became really emotional and stressed out”
Nunavik’s social housing agency says it hopes to tackle the growing number of bedbug infestations in homes across the region.
The Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau has launched a community-wide extermination campaign in Kuujjuaq this week, with the goal of treating around 50 homes.
“We’ve had a lot of clients complaining about bedbugs in their homes,” said Jennifer LaPage, the housing bureau’s assistant director of client services. “It got to the point where they couldn’t get rid of them on their own; tenants became really emotional and stressed out.”
Bedbugs are reddish-brown in colour, oval in shape and about the size of an apple seed. The bugs live on fabrics—bedding, couches, clothing or carpets—and come out at night to feed. They’re attracted to the carbon dioxide people and animals exhale, so they will bite and feed on humans or pets.
The bite marks are similar to getting bitten by a mosquito and don’t tend to cause any illness. For most people, LaPage said, the worst part is the stress of knowing you have an infestation in your home.
Nunavimmiut started noticing bedbugs many years ago, LaPage said, when they were staying in hotels down south. It’s believed the bugs get transported to the region in people’s luggage and on their clothing.
Although bedbugs have been present in the region for a number of years, the housing bureau said the problem has intensified this year, particularly in homes along the Hudson coast. Housing staff aren’t sure why.
“Normally, we let people know when the exterminator is coming to a community, so residents can contact their housing manager if they need treatment,” LaPage said.
This time around, the housing bureau is leading a wider, more co-ordinated effort to tackle infestations, starting in Kuujjuaq this week and then in Hudson coast communities later this month.
But LaPage said the housing bureau will need the help of tenants.
That’s because homes must be cleaned and fabrics washed before an exterminator can even treat a unit. Tenants must first wash and dry all their household fabrics—including clothing, bedding, towels and curtains—on high heat for 45 minutes, and then place clean items in garbage bags to be removed from the home.
Tenants are also required to vacuum and wash floors, and move furniture away from the walls.
Exterminators treat homes with a powder-based chemical application along with a thermal treatment for fabric-covered items like mattresses and couches.
Tenants can usually return to their homes six hours after a treatment. Exterminators then typically come back to do a second treatment three or four weeks later.
Because bedbugs can live on clothing, the housing bureau recommends that tenants who have an infestation not visit other homes until their own home is treated, because the insects spread and breed easily.
LaPage hopes the housing bureau can fight any stigma related to infestations; she stresses that bedbug infestations are not a result of a home being dirty or cluttered.
“The more we provide information, the more people are opening up and getting in touch for treatments,” LaPage said. “So that’s a good thing.”
“And so far, we’re getting really good collaboration with tenants.”
If you’re a housing bureau tenant in Kuujjuaq and believe you have a bedbug infestation in your house, call the local housing office at 819-964-2000 extension 259. Tenants in other communities should call their local housing manager to request a treatment.