Unwelcome visitors invade Salvation Army

A local shelter has some very unwelcome residents – bed bugs. The Salvation Army has been trying to get rid of them, but some residents said, that can’t happen soon enough.

Eleven-year-old Edwin Benitez is covered with bites. Bed bug bites from staying at the Salvation Army. They first appeared a week ago. “It feels humiliating and frightening,” said Edwin.

Benitez’s mom, Christine Powell, said she has tried to get the problem solved, including taking her son to the hospital for treatment and notifying the staff at the Salvation Army. “They told me they’ve been dealing with this for the last five years maybe more,” said Powell.

The Salvation Army officials said the problem started two and a half months ago. In that time, exterminators have sprayed, residents clothes have been washed, and beds sanitized. “We’re doing everything that we possibly can do. We’ve even shut down for a week so we can take out all the mattresses bought all new mattresses,” said Salvation Army’s Maj. Butch Mallard.

Mallard said $10,000 has been spent on getting rid of the bugs, but the problem is the shelter has wooden beds and the bugs live in the frames. The solution would be new metal frames, but there’s no funding. “We’re still trying to handle the problem and we don’t want to have to cut other services but the big thing is we have a need for the metal beds and we don’t have $12,000 to buy the metal beds,” added Mallard.

Christine Powell said its not enough. “It makes me sick. I want to leave, but I have no where else to go.”

According to a doctor at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, there are no long term negative health effects to bed bug bites. However, scratching the bites can leave skin susceptible to infection if they’re not treated.

Bed bugs are usually treated with a topical cream or anti-histamine.

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