Community rallies around Syrian families dealing with bed bug infestations

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WATCH ABOVE: Saint John refugees dealing bed bug infestations – Jun 9, 2016

Nearly 50 Syrian refugee families have resettled in the Crescent Valley community in the north end of Saint John since the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, about seven of those families have been dealing with an infestation of bed bugs.

READ MORE: Syrian refugee resettlement program $136M under budget in 1st year

“We know that they’re quite upset, but that they know that everybody is caring and that everybody is trying to do what they can,” said Ann Barrett, president of the Crescent Valley Resource Centre.

“I think they went away with a knowing that there was going to be teams going in to help them.”

Much has been done, despite the language barrier, to educate the families on the situation and how to deal with it going forward. The YMCA of Greater Saint John has been central in the Syrian resettlement and says it will be up to the affected families how they proceed.

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READ MORE: Saint John Syrian refugees learn English to better job prospects

“We will be more than willing to temporarily move them into hotel accommodations while the exterminators are in their homes,” said CEO Shilo Boucher. “If they choose to move to another area of the city, we will also help them do that.”

That’s not something residents want to see. Janet McLaughlin heads the Crescent Valley Community Tenants Association. She has seen the community, one of the city’s priority neighbourhoods, make great improvements over the years and feels the publicity over the issue has unfairly painted them in a negative light.

“We may have a bed bug situation down here but so does the whole province,” she said.

“It’s not just Crescent Valley, it’s everywhere. So to target us — and the new families, plus our own families that are living here — to me was unjust.”

Community leaders say the Syrian families have been very active participants in their new neighbourhoods.

“The children are out playing, the families are out in the evening after supper sitting around having tea,” said Crescent Valley Resource Centre executive director Anne Driscoll.

READ MORE: Immigration Minister regrets remark on Syrian refugees use of food banks

“We found they were very active when we had our community clean up.”

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McLaughlin said there’s a feeling everyone can benefit by their presence.

“Its a win win situation for both sides,” she said. “We’re going to learn from them just as much as they’re going to learn from us and that’s what we want down here.”

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