More on bed bugs at the Montana Rescue Mission in Billings

by nobugsonme on November 27, 2007 · 4 comments

in bed bug epidemic, bed bug treatment, bed bugs, how to get rid of bed bugs, mattresses, pest control, usa “Bedbugs give shelter a challenge”

This article carries more details on the bed bug war going on in the Montana Rescue Mission men’s shelter than the one blogged last week. It is a harrowing reminder of how hard it is to get rid of bed bugs under certain circumstances.

More than a year ago, the mission spent $5,500 replacing all 27 wooden bunk beds in the men’s shelter dormitory with steel bunks that give the bugs no openings to hole up in or to build nests. All the wooden beds at the mission’s Women’s and Family Shelter on First Avenue North were replaced at the same time, [shelter manager Tracy] Hansen said

Ecolab Pest Elimination Services has been coming at least once a month to do treatments at the shelter, and shelter workers also use a nontoxic powder to treat areas in which bedbugs are found. All the mattresses were replaced at one point, and sheets are now washed daily.

Blankets are also washed regularly, Hansen said, and soon they will be dried in a large commercial dryer, which will kill any bedbugs.

After initially making good progress against the bedbugs, the shelter saw another outbreak over the summer. As Drake explained, “We have so many people bringing in so many things on their persons.”

Hansen said the problem this summer and fall has been concentrated in the chapel, which handles overflow sleepers. Although the dormitory sleeps 54 people and 20 more men involved in change-of-life programs sleep in several common rooms, as many as 40 men a night will stretch out on mats on the floor of the chapel. People are asked not to bring in bags or their own blankets, but they still end up bringing in bedbugs in their clothes.

Over the summer, mission workers ripped out the baseboard all around the chapel, where they found several nests in decaying wood and plaster. Those areas were treated, but there are still occasional finds, Hansen said. Over the summer, he might find 10 to 15 live bugs a day. On Thursday, he said, he found two.

Replacing wooden beds with metal probably helps, though bed bugs can also infest metal beds; they can even harbor in the groove of a screw-head. And replacing bed frames does nothing, if mattresses are not properly encased (whether replaced or not). I would like to know if the mattresses are encased, which will help keep them from becoming reinfested.

Regular treatments are good, but most PCOs who know bed bugs seem to recommend treating more than once a month. Washing/drying sheets daily and washing or even just drying blankets (which should also be done daily under such circumstances) is a good idea.

The sad fact is that it is probably hard to do more than control bed bugs in a shelter situation. Even if guests do not bring in bags, as long as people are coming in wearing clothing, the potential for reinfestation is there.

One statement in the article really jumped out at me:

Barbara Schneeman, the communications and advocacy manager at the Yellowstone City-County Health Department, said the department hasn’t heard of any problems with bedbugs anywhere else in Billings. In a given year, she said, there might be one or two calls about bedbugs.

If a homeless shelter has bed bugs, a person brought them in, or they were brought in with a shipment. The former is more likely.
The person can have been an employee, visitor, or homeless guest.

If people are exposed to bed bugs in the shelter, they will also carry those bed bugs elsewhere.
Those people can be employees, visitors, or homeless guests.

Where those people go next, they may leave bed bugs: stores, cafes, government offices, laundromats, buses, trains, cars, schools, hospitals, PCO’s offices, employees’ and visitors’ and guests’ and their friends’ apartments and houses.

If a homeless shelter in Billings has bed bugs, there are problems with bed bugs in other places in Billings.
It’s a matter of time before people realize it.

I hope everyone in Billings with bed bugs will call the Yellowstone City-County Health Department and let them know. Public health officials will not recognize bed bugs as a problem unless you call them and tell them they are a problem. If they shrug it off, do not take it personally. If everyone calls, officials will have to take this seriously. Other health departments are beginning to.

1 Doug Summers MS November 28, 2007 at 10:21 am

The homeless shelters are in the same position as the hotels. New clients check in every day & any of the guests may have bed bugs hitchhiking in with their personal effects. Any pest control measures that are being utilized may be negated by the constant reintroduction of bed bugs that are traveling with the guests.

Care should be taken during the construction of the new facility to make the accommodations unfriendly for bed bugs. As long as a reservoir of bed bugs exists in the community they will continue to be reintroduced into the facility.

The only practical way to keep bed bugs from being reintroduced into the facility would be to utilize a Bed Bug Dog to screen each guest & their possessions each time they enter the building.

2 nyjammin November 28, 2007 at 11:15 am

Doug said “The only practical way to keep bed bugs from being reintroduced into the facility would be to utilize a Bed Bug Dog to screen each guest & their possessions each time they enter the building.” Cities have a hard time financially already getting in exterminators and keeping the shelters open. How are cities going to afford a bedbug dog on a daily basis?

I do not believe that bedbug dogs are the answer. I never agreed with employing a bedbug dog in the first place. I’m against bedbug dogs and feel the money spent on the dogs should be put to better use like trying to find a cure.

An easier and more affordable way to try to keep bbs from being reintroduced is to have strict guidelines as to what can be taken in and outta the facility and washing and drying clothes upon immediate return from outside with showers for everyone. Imagine going to the store, picking up your children from school, etc. and every time you come back to be sniffed by a dog. Showers and uniforms and clean clothes should be implemented into shelters. A protocol, a system, not bb dogs.

3 DougSummersMS November 28, 2007 at 9:10 pm

Actually the dog would pay for itself by reducing the pest control & laundry costs.

The K9 would need to be full time. The larger expense usually would be the compensation for the handler, but a creative approach like training a volunteer resident or an existing staff member could make the approach affordable. The dog could also be utilized to anchor an interesting public fund raising campaign.

A bed bug dog could be placed into service for ninety days as a demonstration project to explore the efficacy of utilizing a K9 team to achieve bed bug control with a transient population. You could give each resident the option of using a building that is screened with a K9 or a separate dormitory that isn’t being screened.

As NYJamming points out there would need to be strict protocols, but the K9 team screening concept would allow each resident to maintain control of their possessions. A protocol that requires people to surrender their property at the door could create problems.

4 diane July 24, 2009 at 5:13 pm

The bedbug dog is a great idea. It would give people so much more privacy and respect. I went to a shelter in Colorado for the FIRST time. We had to shower and wear their scrubs (that didn’t match or fit) it was so humaliting. WE had to wash all our clothes we brought in ..even clean ones. THE DRYER is all that is actually needed. The people were rude and demeaing and we left without even eating dinner. It would had been so much better to had a dog sniff us and see we didn’t have bugs. BESIDES, if everyone everytime enter the buidling, the person bringing them in could be anyone….not just the person coming in for the first time. Dogs are actually easier trained than it sounds. It would be great public PR. It isn’t a police dog who attacks, so there could be more than one handier.

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