A Charlotte, North Carolina shelter that houses women who have suffered domestic violence has evacuated residents for several weeks while bed bugs are removed, according to the Charlotte Observer:
The Charlotte-area United Family Services domestic violence shelter has evacuated its residents to “a safe place” in order to battle a recent infestation of bedbugs, said Libby McLaughlin, vice president of development and communication. The staff anticipates reopening the shelter in two to three weeks.
But the move has added to the difficulties the women face, which include other time constraints. Shelter rules dictate that, upon arrival, residents have 30 days to find a job and another place to stay.
The bites and rashes from the bedbugs have made it hard for some women to find a job. And the medicine given to fight the itching, such as steroids or Benadryl, has triggered the addictions of some women with substance abuse problems.
“People are saying to go back home,” said one anonymous shelter resident. “I don’t have that option, because I’m not going back home.”
One would hope that the normal rules of the shelter would be adapted during such a crisis.
While removed from much more dangerous situations in their homes, these women have still been suffering from a lesser kind of “domestic crisis.” It’s a lot to expect for women who may be losing a lot of sleep and suffering from stress, visible bed bug bites, and itching (which can be quite uncomfortable) to find new jobs and a new home within thirty days.
We’ve previously reported on another Charlotte shelter, the Salvation Army women’s shelter, which houses homeless women, and which has been battling bed bugs off and on for nearly a year. The Salvation Army has apparently spent $50,000 in the last few weeks on renovations aimed at eliminating their bed bug problems.
Meanwhile, the United Family Services shelter has invested in new flooring, mattresses and bedding. It has also purchased a new dryer and new metal frame beds. (It is not mentioned in the article, but I hope they are getting good, aggressive pest control treatment as well.)
Local public health officials stress bed bugs are not a health problem,
“This is not a public health pest,” said Lynn Lathan, environmental health supervisor for the Mecklenburg County Health Department. “They’re annoying, but not transmitting disease.”
However, I personally think that a condition which can cause serious skin irritation, visible welts all over your face and body, other allergic reactions, anxiety and loss of sleep is a health concern.
Nevertheless, the women at United Family Services have worse threats to worry about:
For women in the United Family Services shelter, there’s a choice: Face the bugs in the shelter, or face abuse at home.
“I have a choice of going back to my husband and getting punched in the eye or getting eaten by bugs,” said one anonymous shelter resident.
We can only hope things are better for these women soon.