Homeless in Vancouver: Rats! There's vermin trouble downtown

Yesterday morning’s daily Province provided an evocative tableau on its cover: the banner headline “Infested” atop a larger-than-life rat snout.

“Umm, coffee, two eggs, and a side of Downtown Eastside for breakfast this morning?” I thought to myself.

Pretty much, but with a judicial twist; the story described how Vancouver’s provincial courthouse on Main Street, smack in the heart of the DTES, was having escalating problems with bedbugs, mice, and now rats.

The Crown Counsel Association that represents British Columbia’s prosecutors is just itching to have the problem solved.

Apparently bedbugs have been in the courtrooms and Crown counsel offices for years, heat and steam treatments notwithstanding.

In November mice made their presence known and toward Christmas—and I quote:

“…a rat was spotted in the offices that house nearly 75 prosecutors.”

This is no joking matter [wipes tears from eyes]. Management sprang into action, setting out traps and plugging suspected points of entry.

The report gives no indication of how many Crown prosecutors may have been trapped in the building over the holidays.

Certainly part of the problem—the mice and rat part—might stem from the age of the big 30-something building, but Steve Fudge, president of the B.C. Crown Counsel Association, had to say that the bedbugs may have been brought into the building by people from nearby neighbourhoods.

So he’s referring to nearby Yaletown and Strathcona? Phew! For a second there I thought someone might blame it on the marginalized residents of the Downtown Eastside, which is many things both good and bad, but it’s a stretch to call it a neighbourhood.

Though the Downtown Eastside certainly does have an abundance of bedbugs, mice, and rats. How could it not?

The area is home to some of the oldest buildings in Vancouver, very many of them quite rundown, including more than a few ratty flophouses, and it’s right on the waterfront. That would be enough by itself to ensure a large, healthy population of wharf rats—both land-loving and seaworthy—and plenty of bedbugs and fleas and lice. Oh my!

The large population of fixed and transient poor men and women is really just gilding on the lily as far as I’m concerned, though bedbugs are more than happy to use the people the way the people use transit.

Health officials insist bedbug infestations are neither linked to hygiene nor are bedbugs attracted to the very poor; the best hotels in Vancouver can certainly attest to the fact that bedbugs are not repelled by the very rich.

Back at the courthouse, Fudge points a finger at the budgetary constraints that see only four janitors providing cleaning services on a daily basis.

He’s been advised that it isn’t a health issue. “But,” he tells the Province, “it does not make it a very happy place to go to work. When you throw in the mice and the rat problems, it can be hard psychologically to go to work.”

No doubt.

It’s next to impossible to sleep in many of the hotel rooms on the Downtown Eastside thanks to evil little bloodsucking bedbugs. Next to them rats and mice are a picnic.

Over the years I’ve seen many homeless people take the path off the street that leads to a single-room occupancy on the Downtown Eastside. I then saw some of them covered in little red bites and almost catatonic from days and days of forced sleeplessness.

And I watched quite a few chose to come back out on the streets of the Kitsilano, Fairview, and Mount Pleasant neighbourhoods, where it’s comparatively much cleaner than the SROs where they were staying in the Downtown Eastside.

In my experience you don’t get bedbugs outside, but you can get a good night’s sleep.

Maybe you can even get some work done. When the weather warms up a bit, the prosecutors should try taking their work outside. 

Comments (3) Add New Comment
foxxe wilder
Okay, point one. The rats have been down there for at LEAST 30 years that *I* recall, (nearby chinatown has been overrun for years, just check newspaper archives).

Point two. More often than not, the bedbugs are carried by TRAVELLERS and they don't just hit the poor, in fact BECAUSE of mouse problems in normal low cost hotels etc, the bedbug problem is not as harsh as mice can and will eat bedbugs (as will cockroaches)

They are more attuned to living in the higher rent (geared to middle to upper middleclass hotels - such as the old Hotel Vancouver, Best Western, Ramada etc etc.

Oh and before you start thinking that the bedbugs don't exist outside, you might want to think again. Mankind did not INVENT bedbugs, they've been around since mankind lived in caves!

Only EXTREME diligence and determination and (quite often) DAILY treatments to the ENTIRE BUILDING will cut back on their reoccurance but this would also involve ALL tenants to do their part (which is rare because people are basically lazy and think 'ahh screw it, what is one bedbug anyways?' -- answer, the mother to the next generation!
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S. Mahoony
Their pest control specialists obviously dont know what theyre doing.
1) Bedbugs nest in WALLS so getting rid of furniture only handles part of the problem
2) bedbugs feed on RATS, dogs, cats, etc as well as humans.
So it makes sense that one problem is literally feeding off of the other.
They need a pesticide with a LONG RESIDUAL of 6 months.
The Canadian Military uses one and has for decades. Why isnt it being made available to the public?
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Barbara McFadden
The bedbug infestation in the Wharf St. Hotel in Gastown has been a horrible ongoing problem for the residents there for years. They are trying to address it but it seems a hopeless problem
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