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Local Directory for Ottawa, ON


Signs, bedbugs and homelessness

I’m a sign-reader. I can’t pass a post that has signage without at least glancing at it. I’m particuarly drawn to signs of the non-professional genre. Handwritten signs are my favourite, then photocopied handwritten signs, then home computer signs. Big multi-coloured professionally-designed signs don’t really interest me.

Lately there have been an awful lot of Lost Cat signs. I hope it’s just a sign of Spring, and not a sign of the return of Craig Farkas.

A couple of odd signs have caught my eye the last few days.

Bedbug Infestation in Ottawa1) Bedbugs. I know there are bedbugs in Ottawa, and there are probably more of them in rooming houses than anywhere else, but I find it hard to believe that every single rooming house in Ottawa has a bedbug infestation, don’t you? And how would they know that for a fact? And who are these women anyway?

But maybe I’m wrong: further research reveals that the City of Ottawa has a bed bug information page, which probably isn’t a good sign. And Cathy Crowe*, a street nurse and anti-poverty activitst in Toronto, says street people are avoiding shelters because of bedbug infestations and tuberculosis. Did you know that about a third of Toronto’s homeless population has TB?

Not only that, but hotel chains around North America are reluctantly admitting they have bedbug problems. Bedbugs live on human blood but can survive without a meal for a year, and they’re very hard to eradicate once they’ve made themselves at home. I don’t know how they figure stuff like this out, but apparently bedbugs can survive twice the nuclear blast survivable by cockroaches.

2) I was out of town on the weekend but when I got back I saw signs for a pro-hopscotch rally. It seems the city was a little over-zealous in its enforcement of the anti-graffiti laws, and sent a truck and a crew to power-wash away a children’s chalk hopscotch game in the Glebe. Admittedly it was an unusually BIG hopscotch game: 4 blocks long. But still, it was only chalk, and it would have washed away in the next rain without any help from our municipal tax dollars. I missed the rally, but I did happen to stumble across this lovely chalk hopscotch and graffiti last week on Gladstone Avenue.

Chalk Graffiti

*By the way, Cathy Crowe is coming to Ottawa next week, to promote her book, Dying for a Home: Homeless Activists Speak Out. If you’re interested in hearing her speak on Wednesday May 16th, the details are here. I get to interview her afterwards, as I’m writing a magazine article about her for work! This will be my first journalistic interview, so if you have any ideas for good questions, or interviewing tips in general, I’d love to hear them.

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