Bed bugs prompt closure of SLO homeless shelter

Client was bitten, and one of the insects was found Monday, prompting shelter to be closed for spraying; clients moved to Prado Day Center

acornejo@thetribunenews.comJuly 10, 2013 

A bed bug infestation has temporarily shut down the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter in San Luis Obispo, forcing those seeking shelter to sleep at the Prado Day Center instead, where space is limited.

Bites consistent with bedbugs were noticed on a client over the weekend, and shelter staff found one of the bugs Monday morning, said Dee Torres, homeless services coordinator for CAPSLO.

A pest control company confirmed that the beds in one section of the shelter were infested. Torres decided it was best to close the shelter until the entire building could be sprayed. In addition, hundreds of pounds of linens such as sheets, blankets and towels were also removed to be cleaned.

Torres said the 50-bed shelter will reopen by 5 p.m. Friday.

For now, about 60 people will sleep on bed rolls and sleeping bags on the floor of the Prado Day Center — leaving more than 20 people without a space to sleep indoors.

This is the first case of bedbugs in the shelter’s history, Torres said.

Bed bugs, described as small, reddish-brown, wingless insects about the size of a ladybug, feed on human blood at night. However, the bugs don’t pose a significant health risk because they do not carry disease.

“Bedbugs have become an increasing problem throughout the state,” said Curt Batson, county environmental health director. “It is nothing unique to the county, and it is most common in hotel or motel situations where people might bring them in, they reproduce and feed on the next occupant.”

Batson said that while the bugs are a “nuisance” they are not a public health issue.

Businesses are not required to report an outbreak of bed bugs to county Environmental Health Services, but complaints are tracked. The number of complaints in the last year was not available Wednesday.

Meanwhile, all of the vans used to transport people staying at the homeless shelter have also been treated as an added precaution, Torres said.

Overflow shelters at local churches have also been temporarily shut down so that all of the cots can be treated.

Clients are allowed to use their own bed rolls at the shelter, something that Torres said might have to be reconsidered in the future as the bugs can be easily transferred from luggage or bedding.

Donations of sleeping bags and blankets are needed. Donations can be dropped off at the Prado Day Center, 43 Prado Road, or by calling Torres at 541-6351.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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