West El Paso Homeless Shelter Battling Bed Bug Infestation
POSTED: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 5:15pm
UPDATED: Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 10:27am
EL PASO – A Westside homeless shelter is struggling to control a massive bed bug infestation that residents insist is only getting worse.
One of resident at the Rescue Mission of El Paso called NewsChannel 9 asking for help Tuesday morning.
When we arrived to investigate, we met Tara Nelson outside in front of the shelter.
“Beg bugs are horrible here,” she told us. “I'm allergic to them. I get welts everywhere, all over me."
Nelson said the bugs run rampant thorough the shelter and no one seems to be immune.
"They attack me at night, all night long,” said Nelson. “I get them on my feet, legs, back, everywhere."
Nelson, who has been staying at the shelter for the past 2 months, took us to her room to show us where she sleeps. She pointed out blood stains on her sheets from the bites on her body.
"It's just horrible," said Nelson's roommate, Vanessa Vargas. She said she noticed the beg bug problem right after moving in last month.
“I noticed it when I saw little red marks on my children,” she said. “I asked the staff up front what is was and they said it was bed bugs.” Vargas said she's desperate for something to be done.
NewsChannel 9 asked the Rescue Mission's director, Blake Barrow, if he knew about the beg bugs biting his residents.
"We have been fighting it here for about 3 years," Barrow said.
He said the Rescue Mission is doing everything it can to exterminate the bugs. That includes spraying cedar oil from a fogger into the rooms and putting the beds on glass coasters so the bugs can't crawl up.
But that is only part of the solution.
"A huge part of the problem and what we've been fighting on the women's side is education, Barrow said. “I can't do it by myself."
He said the shelter's residents need to do more to stomp out the infestation.
"I heard that one lady was changing her bed and she takes the sheet and she whips it. Then, all of the sudden, what ever was on that sheet is now dispersed around the room and the bunk beds that I had isolated are now infected."
The Rescue Mission said it plans to replace old bunk begs. Soon, it will also require anyone coming into the shelter to run their clothes in a dryer for about 5 minutes. The heat should kill any bed bugs and prevent more outbreaks.
But as millions of people around the country know, bed bugs are tiny, they multiply quickly, and once they're in your home, they're nearly impossible to get rid of.