Bedbugs are back at Maxine Lewis homeless shelter

acornejo@thetribunenews.comSeptember 3, 2013 

A live bedbug crawls across a dime.

KEN LAMBERT — Seattle Times/MCT

Bedbugs have once again invaded the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter in San Luis Obispo, forcing shelter staff to close half of the facility indefinitely.

This is the third time the 50-bed shelter has had to turn people away since the pesky bugs were first discovered at the shelter July 8.

The bugs so far have been found in only one room of the shelter — a 22-bed dormitory for men. That room will be sealed off until further treatment can be done.

The shelter will continue to allow people to stay in the remaining 28 beds, said Dee Torres, homeless services coordinator for Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County.

Clients who are enrolled in case management and people who have stayed there for fewer than 30 days will be given priority, Torres said.

Others will be allowed to say on cots or in sleeping bags on the dining room floor as room allows, she said.

Since the bedbugs were first discovered, the shelter has been fumigated and treated with chemicals, and hundreds of pounds of linens have been professionally cleaned. But to no avail.

A dog, trained to sniff out bedbugs, found the insects during a routine check of the shelter Monday afternoon. As a result, the back portion of the shelter was closed, Torres said.

Several eggs and an adult bedbug were found on one of the wooden bunk beds.

A pest-control company will treat the shelter again this week, using a heat treatment. It is unknown how long it will take until the back portion of the shelter can be reopened.

Torres said the wooden bunk beds in the shelter can serve as a breeding ground for the bugs but added that new metal bunk beds are costly.

“Replacing 25 bunk beds can be as much as $50,000,” Torres said.

To date, more than $20,000 has been spent on efforts to eradicate the bugs, Torres said.

The city of San Luis Obispo, the county and the Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo have helped defray those costs.

Maxine Lewis is the only overnight shelter in San Luis Obispo.

The bugs were first found in July after bites consistent with bed bugs were reported by a client.

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.

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

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