By ROXANN MILLER
10:18 PM EST, January 30, 2011
The Franklin County Shelter for the Homeless will reopen Tuesday after an infestation of bedbugs forced its shutdown for almost the entire month of January.
After a recent inspection confirmed that the bedbugs were gone, shelter Coordinator Trudy Wesley was rushing to buy supplies Friday to get the shelter spick-and-span for new occupants by Tuesday.
A private extermination company conducted the inspection.
Wesley said a bedbug issue is not a health-related issue that would require an inspection by a state or local agency.
“We’ve always been inspected and exterminated by a private company. It (bedbugs) just got out of control,” Wesley said.
Despite a clean inspection, shelter staff members know that when it comes to bedbugs, there are no guarantees.
“It should stop,” Wesley said. “We had a clean inspection. But, when you have a transient population, there are no guarantees of anything. From what I understand, you can go into a restaurant and sit down and they’re there. You can get them anywhere, anywhere there are people: taxicabs, movie theaters, even in book bags — you’ll find bedbugs.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website, bedbugs are rapidly spreading across the country.
The EPA will host the Second National Bed Bug Summit Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to figure out a way to stop or at least slow the spread of the pests.
“Bedbugs have increased dramatically as a public health pest throughout the country,” according to the EPA website. “While bedbugs are not known to transmit diseases, they can cause stress, discomfort and sores. Experts suspect the resurgence is associated with greater international and domestic travel, lack of knowledge regarding the complex measures needed to prevent and control bedbugs due to their prolonged absence, and increased resistance of bedbugs to available pesticides.”
Wesley said the shelter’s problem started last summer, but eradicating the bugs was difficult when the facility was housing residents.
Staff helped the eight residents of the shelter find alternate housing when the facility temporarily closed.
Wesley said the eight residents were due for discharge from the shelter because there is a time limit on the length of stay there.
“We’re only funded for 30 days,” Wesley said. “This is a program. Some people get the misconception that they can come in here and just hang out. No, it’s taxpayers’ dollars funding them.”
Wesley said she would consider letting former residents return to the shelter for 60 days, depending on their progress and an evaluation every two weeks.
The year-round shelter at 223 Main St. in Chambersburg can accommodate 18 people.
Shelter residents were asked to vacate the shelter by Jan. 8 so extermination could begin.
“They were in the beds. They were almost like little termites,” Wesley said. “Everything we did, including exterminating, was not working. They were in the wooden beds and the wooden bed frames. So, we ended up burning all of that stuff. We got rid of anything we didn’t use. This place, when it opens, will be incredibly minimalist.”
Bedbugs populated the wooden beds and most of the wooden bedroom furniture so the bed frames had to be replaced with metal ones. The dressers are now plastic and the mattresses also needed to be replaced.
Starting with a clean slate will enable the exterminator to determine the source of the bedbugs and which room to attack first, she said.
“Hopefully they won’t come back, but with a transient population, you never know,” Wesley said. “This way we have a base line. Because the bedbugs can crawl through receptacles — just about anything.”
The inspector/exterminator will exterminate monthly and return in between times to routinely inspect the shelter, Wesley said.
She credits the hard work of her staff of five and generous community support for the reason the shelter is opening so soon after the problem was discovered.
“Central Presbyterian Church, bless their hearts, and the entire community have really come forth,” Wesley said. “They have been calling and asking us what we need. This staff worked so hard. It’s only five others and me. I couldn’t have had a better group. They worked their tails off.”
Spicher’s Appliances on Orchard Drive in Chambersburg sold a dryer to Central Presbyterian Church, 40 Lincoln Way West of Chambersburg, at cost, to replace the old dryer that wore out in the heating process required to eliminate bedbugs from the shelter.
The church also donated mattresses and plastic dressers.
The shelter still needs twin sheets, twin-size blankets, cleaning supplies, trash bags, frozen food, nonperishable items, canned food and monetary donations.
However, it cannot accept any clothing until further notice.
“Bedbugs could re-enter the shelter on clothing. We just have to be as careful as possible,” Wesley said.
South Central Community Action Programs Inc. owns the shelter and SCCAP Fiscal Manager Cheryl Froelicher said eliminating the bedbugs has taken a chunk of the Chambersburg shelter’s $262,000 to operate this year.
To solve the bedbug problem, it cost the shelter nearly $5,000 just in January.
Froelicher said bed frames alone cost $3,500 and pest extermination cost $1,000 for the initial visit and $80 every time the exterminator returns.
“We took a bad hit on our budget,” Wesley said.
For more information
For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation, contact Franklin County Shelter for the Homeless, 223 S. Main St., Chambersburg, PA 17201; or call 717-267-3669.
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