Bed bugs are biting in Carson City |

Bed bugs are biting in Carson City

Andrew Pridgen

CARSON CITY — They bite. Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) can force people out of homes, condemn buildings, multiply faster than cockroaches — and in the case of a group of men trying to get their lives back in order — cost them everything they’ve worked hard to regain.

The Focus House, a shelter based in South Carson City for men transitioning from homelessness to being back on their feet, has been infested with bed bugs since June.

The problem, which started in one room through a single resident, spread through the 2,500-square-foot shelter, forcing residents pick up yet again — and, sleep outdoors.

In spite of the onset cold fall nights, many of the men have not moved back into Carson City’s only men’s shelter.

“We come from sleeping outdoors in the streets to sleeping outdoors at the shelter,” said one resident, who refused to give his real name.

With a predicted early and wet winter and snow showing up in the Sierra Nevada’s 10-day forecast, the time is now for Focus House officials to get rid of the bugs — once and for all, a shelter resident said.

“I’ll tell you what should happen, this building should be condemned,” said another resident, speaking on a condition of anonymity.

Monte Fast, executive director, of Carson-based Friends in Service Helping (FISH) — the agency that operates the Focus House – agreed, that the time has come for the bed bugs to no longer bite; noting that FISH has tried to eradicate the problem since it was first reported.

He said the perception from a handful of the residents that the nonprofit can do more, is not accurate.

“There’s a couple of guys down there who are laboring under the impression if we can’t give them the lodging there under the conditions they demand that we have to rent them places and put them up around town,” Fast said. “That just isn’t what FISH does.”

Fast said “numerous measures” have been taken to rid the halfway house of the infestation over the last three months — including hiring an exterminator.

“We called Catseye (Pest Control) right away and they started the extermination process,” Fast said. “It turned the bugs down a little bit, but didn’t eliminate them. Catseye said they couldn’t do it in one fell swoop — so they’ve been coming back.”

Catseye branch manager Scott Conner corroborated Fast’s story, noting there’s nothing about the problem that should condemn the building as some residents have suggested.

“Northern Nevada has a (bed bug) epidemic,” Conner said. “The home continues to be treated by specialists in a professional manner. One of the guys staying there brought them in and didn’t let anybody know, and it just spread.

“We’ve gotten it under control.”

Fast said the bed bug host came to the shelter from Sacramento, and the bed bug epidemic started within a matter of days.

“He wasn’t on the level with us,” Fast said. “But we’ve done what we can. Last weekend, we went down and took out all the furniture, disassembled it and disinfected it.

“The only thing we can do now is get rid of all the mattresses. There are 25 of them, and I don’t have it in the budget to get all new ones. If anyone wants to help the homeless and donate a mattress — we would welcome the offer.”

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