Bedbugs Disturb Sleep at Salvation Army Shelter (Charlottesville, VA)
Friday, June 15, 2012

The Salvation Army's downtown shelter is bugged and the charity's administrative staff is listening.

The city's primary homeless shelter is being remodeled, forcing the charity to keep down the number of folks it takes in while it replaces and repairs ceilings, walls, beds and mattresses in hopes of eliminating cimex lectularius.

No one sleeps tight when the bedbugs bite. Well, technically, they suck.

"We've tried home remedies and homeopathic remedies and we just gave up and started having a professional exterminator come in with the bug-sniffing dog," said Major Allen Johnson. "We've had it treated several times and it costs between $2,000 and $8,000 when we have to do it. That's money that we don't have in our budget."

An infestation of the little creepers has been hard to control at the old shelter. The bugs crawl into the wood, hide in the mattresses and come out to feast on tired folks seeking succor from the elements and life's hardships.

The bugs stowaway in luggage, clothes, pillows and pretty much anything used as furniture or bedding.

"We have sort of a dormitory set-up in the shelter and the bunks are wood and there is wood paneling and we're replacing all of that," Major Johnson said. "The shelter is about 27 years old and it needs remodeling and we're addressing some safety concerns, as well, but the bugs are a major issue."

While the remodeling goes on, the shelter is limited to taking only those in emergency situations and those who have no other place to go. It's a necessity as the army is taking the opportunity to address various issues such as patchwork past remodeling that created safety issues.

"We're still taking medical patients and first-time homeless, but we've closed the night room that's remained open for folks who want a warm place to sleep," Major Johnson said. "It's summer, so that should be less of a problem."

Don't think that because the Salvation Army shelter has bedbugs that it is a dirty, skuzzy place to be. According to, there are lots of hotels and motels both rank and swank that have the issue.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association notes that the little buggers have been nibbling on people since prehistoric times. They were nearly eradicated in the United States after World War II but are back due to increased international travel and weaker pesticides.

Whatever the reason, they're making up for the past six decades and Salvation Army shelters across the country are feeling the bite. In Indiana, Florida, Iowa and other states, army facilities are closing down and remodeling.

"We're not the only ones with a problem and we're doing our best to correct it," Major Johnson said. "It's going to be an inconvenience for a while, but it's going to be worth it."