RainCity Housing’s “bed bug sauna” now active in new Vancouver building

by nobugsonme on June 19, 2009 · 3 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs, british columbia, canada, furniture, heat, mattresses, thermal treatment, vancouver

Remember when we reported back in June 2008 that a new RainCity Housing development in Vancouver was going to contain a “bed bug sauna” for treatment of infested items?

The new building “The Lux”, at 65 Hastings Street, is in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a highly infested neighborhood, and provides 25 transitional housing units, and 67 supported long-term housing units.  And they’ve started baking tenants’ bed bugs.

RainCity is a chartiable organization which provides housing to people who need it.  Their website states,

The men and women who benefit from the services of RainCity Housing are treated with dignity and respect, and are offered a safe place to live, independence and improved quality of life.

Nothing says “dignity and respect” as much as helping people to live without the presence of bed bugs.

The Vancouver Courier reported of the new sauna room, that

Staff take bed bug-infested furniture to a 200-square-foot cream-coloured room with a grey cement floor and four metal troughs. A gas boiler heats water and an electric fan spreads heat throughout the room. Simpson, operations manager for RainCity, wraps infested mattresses, carries them carefully to the ground floor room, cranks the dry heat to 60 degrees Celsius for four to six hours, and watches bed bugs creep from the highest point of an item down, until they dry out and fall off.

It does not replace bed bug treatment for the unit, but does mean tenants do not have to throw out belongings which they may have been asked to toss in the past.


RainCity hasn’t run the belongings of tenants moving into The Lux through the oven before they get set up, but it might do so when the flow of tenants moving in decreases. The nine-storey building provides low-barrier transitional housing with intensive staffing on two floors, and provides apartments for men and women who have a history of homelessness.

In my opinion, it would be best to run new tenants’ belongings through the unit.   Many people will not notice they have bed bugs until the problem is pronounced — especially since many people do not react to bed bug bites.  And tenants with bed bugs can spread bed bugs to others via common areas, and outside of the building (buses, hangouts, etc.).

With construction and consultant costs, Simpson estimates the bed bug room cost $8,000 out of the $22 million it took to construct 92 new social housing units in the Downtown Eastside. Extra money was spent in an attempt to seal each unit. Electrical outlets include flanges to keep bed bugs at bay. RainCity’s maintenance contract with a pest control company continues but in this new building, treating rooms above, below and next to an infested one shouldn’t be necessary.

$8000 out of $22 million?   Peanuts.

And simply sealing each unit carefully from the outset may go a long way to helping prevent bed bugs spreading.

The bed bug sauna idea is attracting interest from public housing provider BC Housing:

Bill Briscall, RainCity’s communications manager, said B.C. Housing is interested in including bed bug saunas at each of the 12 city-owned sites where social housing is planned. RainCity Housing runs shelters, including the controversial HEAT shelters under Granville Bridge, long-term housing, outreach programs, life skills and food services.

The Globe and Mail also reported on the Bed Bug Sauna at The Lux (PDF here).

1 DougSummersMS June 19, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Glad to hear that the sauna is operational.

It looks like a good model … Combined with bed bug resistant architecture … education… supportive management & aggressive screening… This will be a project to watch.

2 parakeets June 19, 2009 at 1:35 pm

I volunteered in a homeless shelter that was having people who stayed at the shelter shower and put their possessions and clothes in a hot dryer before they stayed overnight.

I think of this bedbug sauna as kind of a room-size “Packtite”! I wish there was a motel or storage facility that would rent out a room like this for public use. Or maybe a moving truck that could be heated and bake the bedbugs so we could move in safety.

I am hesitant to move into another multi-unit building of any type since anyone moving in (or staying overnight at a hotel) could bring bedbugs into the building. It takes such a group effort.

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