End of pest and hoarding program leaves seniors in limbo in London public housing | CBC News

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A provincially-funded service that helps Londoners living in low-income housing prepare for pest control treatments will start winding down at the end of March, after the city decided not to continue the funding in the multi-year budget.

The Hoarding and Extreme Clean Program supported 124 households last year where hoarding or pest challenges were an issue. A team goes into a home to de-clutter, pack or move furniture so exterminators can spray for bedbugs and cockroaches.

At one London housing unit in Huron Heights, tenants said the service has been particularly useful for seniors and people with disabilities who are unable to carry heavy furniture.

“It’s a very big problem and I feel bad for people because without this help, I don’t know what they’re going to do,” said Kelly Hill, 55, who relies on a mobility scooter and used the program two months ago to get a bedbug treatment in her Huron Heights apartment.

The program was funded by Ontario’s Ministry of Health until 2022 when the city temporarily took it over. It had a contract with Toronto-based VHA Home HealthCare, a non-profit that offers 24/7 health care and support services to people in their homes.

During this year’s budget debate, city staff made a business case to continue funding the $400,000 program annually. The funding request was not approved.

A VHA spokesperson said no one was available for an interview, but wrote in an email that the organization is seeking other revenue streams to be able to continue the service in London.

The program prevents people from facing eviction as a result of pest infestations or cleanliness challenges. Individuals are referred to it through the London Coordinated Access team, said Craig Cooper, London’s director of housing stability services.

“Someone who has hoarding or cleaning challenges can put their tenancy at risk, so it works to prevent any kind of eviction process or people from experiencing homelessness,” he said.

Pam Leese, 66, lives in the same building as Hill and injured her back a few weeks ago, attempting to move her mattresses to get ready for exterminators to spray bedbugs on them.

Although Leese didn’t use Extreme Clean, she said it can be helpful for seniors like herself who deal with recurring cockroach and bedbug infestations in buildings.

“It’s crazy stressful moving the beds and mattresses myself, which are very heavy. It’s not easy at all and my back has been sore for weeks from doing it,” said Leese.

“It’s hard on me but there’s some people that physically cannot do it, so they need to have people available to help move and get ready for the exterminators to come in because you have to take out everything and it’s a lot of work.”

Jim Rider, 85, spent one day this week packing his belongings for pest control to spray his unit. He said it’s impossible for him rearrange items without any any help.

“A program like this would be a lot of help because I can’t lift my TV up and move it or the couch, I’m lucky if I can get myself out of bed,” said Rider.

Cooper is unsure how the VHA program in Toronto will support London moving forward, adding that “agencies and individuals will have to solve their challenges in the moment without a standard program to support them.”

The program’s funding runs out at the end of this month, but services will be offered until Sept. 30 as part of a “wind down” plan to assist those who are currently supported by it, he said.