Bed bugs breaking the bank at homeless shelter


Reporter - Elizabeth Fields
Photojournliast - Mason Watkins

PADUCAH, Ky. - They're a tiny insect that is causing a big problem across the country, but for the first time The River City Mission is battling bed bugs.

Director Shirley Barlow said the problem first popped up about three months ago when one of the men staying at the shelter came to her with bug bites. Once they identified what they were, Barlow said they called an exterminator to treat the site.  Unfortunately, it didn't work.

"We have treated all of our family units.  We have the main problem in our bunk house," she said. The bunk house sleeps about 50 men and Barlow said she thinks someone, whether they know it or not, is carrying the bugs in.
"Were dealing with a number of people in one close area," she said.

Home remedies didn't work, so she's back to relying on another company to treat the site. She said every time they do, she washes and scalds both the bedding and the men's clothes.

"We've done that three times," Barlow said. "They are better, but to tell you today they are totally gone, I'm sure they're not."

Barlow added that the Health Department has been out to see the bunk house, but agrees she's treating it the best way they can under the circumstances.

"That's all we can do. There are so many chemicals that are highly poisonous that we cannot use here."

The treatments, plus new "bedbug proof" mattress pads for every bed have set the shelter back more than $4,000 and Barlow worries if the price tag gets much higher, the bugs could shut them down.

"If people in the community really wanted to help us, they can help us by continuing with their support or new ones coming in to give us support so we can fight this," she said. "Because if it gets to the point the expense that we have don't fight it, then we have to shut the shelter down."

The next treatment is scheduled for next week.

To donate you can call (270) 442-7921
Or mail to:
P. O. Box 1000
Paducah, Kentucky 42003