LEWISTOWN - Shelter Services of Lewistown is undergoing a total renovation of the second and third floor dormitories due to bedbug infestations.
All of the beds, mattresses, furniture and carpeting have been thrown out, costing the shelter $25,000 to fully replace everything, paint the walls and install new flooring, said Wilda Fisher, director of Shelter Services.
"This is an emergency situation and we are asking the community for support," Fisher said. "We don't have the budget to fund the renovation on our own. We are asking the community to donate any money, time or materials they can spare."
The wooden bunk beds are being replaced with metal frames, the wooden draws with plastic bins and the bed covers with locking mattress covers which are designed to keep bedbugs out, Fisher said. The extermination process already cost the shelter $5,000 and the beds are expected to cost $15,000, she said.
"Thankfully, the youth of the United Methodist Church already donated $3,597 from their Homeless Night for bed purchases," Fisher said. "But that's all the money we have to complete the renovation. Without community assistance, the shelter will go into debt and be forced to limit services for an extended amount of time."
Fisher is hoping to have the renovation finished before the cold weather sets in and demand for beds increases. In the meantime, Red Cross has donated a number of cots and blankets for the shelter to use, she said.
"We have had bedbug issues on-and-off for a year now, but we always informed those who stayed with us," Fisher said. "Only recently had it become such a problem that prevention strategies were useless. People were waking up with bites and bugs crawling on their face in the middle of the night."
Management and staff is unable to pinpoint the exact reason for the bedbug infestation, Fisher said. With so many people being served, the bugs could have been carried in at any time, she said.
"Every day we have different people coming to pick up checks and different people staying the night," Fisher said. "The bugs could have come in on anyone. We serve an average of 28 people a week."
The situation isn't pretty, but shelter management is working hard to get the dormitories back under control, Fisher said. With help from the community, those in need will have somewhere to sleep again, she added.
"The people in our area are very giving and I know will help in whatever way they can," Fisher said. "We wouldn't be asking for help if this wasn't an emergency."
Monetary donations can be sent to Shelter Services at 13 Depot St., Lewistown. Those interested in donating their time to paint or lay flooring are asked to contact Wilda Fisher at 248-0102.