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Rats and roaches 

Drunken students aren't the only pests invading Halifax these days.

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A nasty infestation of angry voters crowded outside the office of Liberal MLA Joanne Bernard this week, looking for help. The minister of community services remained inside.

The political pestering was from supporters and residents of 101 Nova Court, who have had to live with cockroaches and bedbugs for years now. The rally was organized with the help of anti-poverty organization ACORN, who say years of empty promises about improving public housing has gone on long enough.

"I've seen pictures of what some of [the tenants] are living in," says ACORN board member Darryl King. "Nobody needs to live in that environment. It's dreadful."

Dealing with an infestation, of bedbugs or other hard-to-kill critters, is a psychological wallop. For low-income renters, it's often also an impossible situation to escape.

The housing authority has told the group that the building has and will be receiving additional pest control treatments to eliminate the creepy crawlies, but King says ACORN will still keep up the pressure, striving for a meeting with the minister. He believes this week's protest was a good start.

"It wasn't a huge crowd, but it was an effective crowd and our voices were heard."

Meanwhile, farther up the food chain, one ex-renter at Victoria Gardens in Dartmouth says a terrifying rat infestation caused her to break her lease.

Deidra Williams was without any problems renting her second-floor apartment for the last couple of years, up until this summer.

The single mom of a four-year-old daughter says she first noticed squeaking in early July. Eventually, she was losing sleep to the "constant" squeals. "It sounded like a pack of small lap-dogs running around my apartment floor."

Landlords Killam Properties brought in Braemar Pest Control to place a few traps, which did succeed in bagging a rat, but wasn't enough to let Williams sleep soundly.

"We assured her the situation had been resolved, however she was quite upset," says Dan Sampson, Killam's director of property management. "Some people, understandably, get really freaked out by stuff like that."

Sampson says Killam has pest control contacts in all their buildings, and that rodents aren't too common. But Williams would disagree, especially after the activated rat trap wasn't collected for three days.

"Which by then was starting to smell. Over the years of living there, only at that moment did I recognize that smell as in the building," she says. "There have been rats here the whole time."

Williams, who was staying with her mother until this past weekend, still isn't happy with Killam's treatment and says she plans to go to the residential tenancies board.


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