Bed bugs invade SLO homeless shelter

July 10, 2013


Bed bugs have moved into the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo’s (CAPSLO) Maxine Lewis Memorial Homeless Shelter, causing staff to temporarily shut down the facility.

On Monday evening, some homeless people seeking a bed for the night were told to sleep outside at the Prado Day Center or find another place to sleep. The shelter will remain closed until Friday evening, according to a sign on the front door.


Closure sign at the Maxine Lewis Shelter

The sign did not provide a reason for the closure, but numerous sources confirmed that bed bugs caused the shelter to shut down.

Many of the clients spent Monday night sleeping outside in sleeping bags at the day center, sources told CalCoastNews.

The sign on the shelter door states that CAPSLO will allow clients who have priority, as well as those who have spent fewer than 30 days in the shelter, to stay overnight at the Prado Day Center during the closure. Those without priority will have to fend for themselves.

CAPSLO requires homeless people to hand over 50 to 70 percent of their income to CAPSLO or another nonprofit Family Ties in order to have priority. CAPSLO officials contend homeless individuals need to have their income managed.

This requirement has led investigators with the Office of the Inspector General to launch an investigation into Family Ties keeping more of several CAPSLO clients’ money than is legally allowed.

Clients who refuse to hand over their income after their first 30 days in the shelter must enter a lottery each night in order to secure a bed. During the shutdown, there are no beds available through the lottery, a sign on the door says.

CAPSLO staff refused to say if they provided those seeking shelter transportation to the Prado Day Center and told reporters they are not permitted on the grounds.

Prado Day Center manager Shawn Ison and Maxine Lewis Shelter manager Della Wagner said the only person permitted to answer questions about the shutdown is Homeless Services Director Dee Torres. Torres, however, failed to respond to questions.

Since bed bugs first invaded California about four years ago, their population has exploded. Bed bugs are small wingless insects that feed on blood.

One pregnant bed bug can produce 7,800 adults, 121,000 babies and 69,000 eggs in just six months.




  1. Tammy says:

    Plastic sheeting, mattress cover, impermeable to bug?

    (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  2. freshair says:

    Come on, CAPSLO, get your act together.

    The County Health Department needs to come down hard on you and your management of the Maxine Shelter.The place has been infested with disease and should regularly be mopped well with bleach, but you never, ever, address the health issues. Did someone finally get brave and file a complaint? I hardly believe you took this matter upon yourselves.

    This issue will undoubtdedly help raise the public awareness needed to address your failures to effectively help the homeless.

    (8) 38 Total Votes - 23 up - 15 down
    • obispan says:

      Bed bugs have nothing to to with any other CAPSLO issues and bleach won’t kill them. They came back 8-10 years ago. County Health was stumped, they could catch any bugs. Doctors were prescribing one antibiotic after another for “dermatitis” before it got figured out. Many people born in the late fifties on didn’t know if bed bugs were real or made up for the rhyme. They remain eradicated in the third world where DDT, uniquely effective and safer than the very dangerous stuff we use now, is restricted to indoor use only, the only restriction necessary. They are a problem in the “transient lodging” including student dormitories and the best hotels where their pest control companies use unmarked work trucks and wear generic uniforms and protective equipment.

      (9) 17 Total Votes - 13 up - 4 down
      • MaryMalone says:

        QUOTING OBISPAN: “Bed bugs have nothing to to with any other CAPSLO issues…”

        I disagree.

        In the case of the CAPSLO bedbugs, the fact that CAPSLO had not proactively planned for bedbugs, and in a homeless shelter bedbugs are definitely a possibility.

        CAPSLO’s answer to their bedbug problem was to tell their homeless clients to go sleep on the sidewalk outside, or find other lodging.

        CAPSLO’s bedbug problem, therefore, there are at least two issues which are similar to many of CAPSLO’s other problems (at least one of which is being investigated by the Office of the Inspector General):

        1. A lack of procedures and planning to deal with issues which would interrupt CAPSLO’s abilities to provide services for which they have been funded by taxpayers (i.e., having a backup resource for housing overnight until CAPSLO’s facility is again functional).

        2. A disregard and dehumanizing approach to CAPSLO’s homeless clients. CAPSLO has repeatedly treated their homeless very poorly and disrespectfully. Not planning for a possible interruption of services AND their only answer being to tell them to go sleep outside on the sidewalk is an example of the lack of consideration by CAPSLO to its clients.


        (-6) 18 Total Votes - 6 up - 12 down
        • obispan says:

          Who “proactively plans for bed bugs”? Tell that to the hotel industry who loses millions dealing with the problem. You are seriously undermining any legitimate criticism of CAPSLO you may have, and I believe you do, by holding them to unrealistic criteria and opportunistically taking political advantage of this issue.

          (7) 7 Total Votes - 7 up - 0 down
    • freshair says:

      Spraying didn’t work, so the Maxine Shelter is now closed indefinitely as of Sunday July 14..

      Can you just imagine if this were to happen at the new 200 person facility CAPSLO wishes to build? This new facility is supposed to encompass the families with children that now stay at the churches and overflow shelters. Think of how many familes with children would be displaced.

      People take great risks of getting sick at the Maxine due to airborne diseases. A bed bug infestation does not all surprise me. I never hear of the shelter being cleaned and sanitized. Where’s all their money go??

      (0) 8 Total Votes - 4 up - 4 down
  3. Ted Slanders says:

    “For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth.” (Exodus 9:15)

    What did CAPSLO expect from the Hebrew-Christian God when they have a laundry list of wrongdoings thatgo against HIs doctrine concerning the homeless and poor?

    (-3) 25 Total Votes - 11 up - 14 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      I guess they didn’t realize that CAPSLO and its supporters, especially county supervisor Adam Hill, couldn’t abuse their power and intimidate God into silence.

      (-3) 17 Total Votes - 7 up - 10 down
  4. GalaxyTraveler says:

    Oh, good grief. Who exactly do you think brings the bugs into the shelter. It’s the drunk, drugged out, freaks who come there for free food and a bed. Sorry, but I lost patience a long time ago for these bums, most of whom make the choice to live the way they do.

    WAKE UP. They are playing you folks for sympathy. That’s what they are good at.

    (-7) 47 Total Votes - 20 up - 27 down
    • toobleak says:

      Wow you are as dumb as they come galaxy if you think that’s the only way to get bed bugs is from the homeless considering most of them don’t have beds…at least they have a clue which is more than I can say for you. You sir are the filthy dusgusting

      (1) 47 Total Votes - 24 up - 23 down
      • localbeachbum says: one is listening to you either (except the voices in your head). And the shelter is closed down due to BEDBUGS…not legal action. There is no legal action because guess what…… CAPSLO hasn’t done anything..but go ahead and “make” stuff up. This is the perfect forum for making up stuff.

        (10) 26 Total Votes - 18 up - 8 down
        • MaryMalone says:

          This “forum” is no more “perfect” for “making up stuff” than any other forum.

          It isn’t the “forum” that is the problem. It is the negligence of CAPSLO in its administration of the homeless services it provides to its clients.

          (0) 18 Total Votes - 9 up - 9 down
    • Cindy says:

      Galaxy, Many homeless families stay in low end motels that are infested with these parasites. The shelter provides vouchers to some families when there is no room at the shelter. These low end motels and even higher end hotels often have bed bugs in them and the bugs climb into the patrons luggage and hitch a ride back to wherever these people stay next. Bed bugs will be a continuous problem at the shelter and they’re going to have to find a long term plan to manage them but they won’t be able to entirely eradicate them for long. Perhaps there is some kind of 30 day product that can be applied regularly. It’s just a fact of life now that the US has been re-infected with the bugs that foreigners have re-introduced. No one is immune, if you travel, you too could bring home bed bugs if you aren’t careful when you stay in overnight lodging.

      (17) 25 Total Votes - 21 up - 4 down
      • OnTheOtherHand says:


        It is nice to hear a voice of sanity in these comments. Whatever anyone may believe about other complaints about CAPSLO, it is hardly their fault that bedbugs have hit their shelter.

        They spread via human clothing (or luggage or other personal items) from one place to another. They don’t slip in through cracks or fly through windows. They aren’t attracted by anything other than warm bodies. The only way CAPSLO could stop them is to require that every shelter resident undergo a thorough shower before entering while all their belongings are disinfected at the same time. I could imagine the outcry and claims of harassment/ discrimination if they tried that!

        (18) 18 Total Votes - 18 up - 0 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      Some of the finest luxury hotels on this planet have had bedbug infestations.

      Any place where beds, couches, chairs, etc. are used by the public–especially beds that are not assigned to one person, but can be used by anyone–is courting an infestation of bedbugs.

      This is pure negligence and creation of a public-health risk. The fault lies in the head of homeless services, Dee Torres, and the board of directors that continues to support her, for not proactively planning for such an event. These proactive plans should have included emergency back-up sleeping arrangements for its homeless clients AND treatment for all homeless persons and staff who have been in the facility in the last couple of weeks.

      Did that occur? NO. It doesn’t appear that CAPSLO even bothered to treat their clients (exposed by CAPSLO’s negligence to bedbugs) before they sent them out on the street to find their own sleeping arrangements.

      This, of course, has put other SLO facilities, restaurants, coffee shops, etc., at risk for bedbug infestations.

      Mark the date July 8, 2013 on your calendar, and just see how long it takes for new bedbug outbreaks to occur locally.

      (-2) 16 Total Votes - 7 up - 9 down
      • Sarah Bellum says:

        Effective treatment for the fifty people who sleep there on any given night is an interesting challenge. I imagine the shelter staff would have to take over a couple of laundromats and run fifty loads of laundry all at once to prevent cross contamination from the clothes that haven’t been cleaned yet to the clothes that just got cleaned. This may not be practical.

        (7) 9 Total Votes - 8 up - 1 down
      • OnTheOtherHand says:


        I am curious as to exactly how this would be done. Do you have any suggestions as to places for them to relocate? (Your home perhaps?) With what funds would they do this and the treatment? (They are scraping just to provide the services they do to that many people.)

        (5) 9 Total Votes - 7 up - 2 down
        • MaryMalone says:

          It is CAPSLO which has contracted to provide homeless services, including an overnight sleeping facility. You might want to ask the director of homeless services for CAPSLO these questions.

          CAPSLO and its ugly sister “nonprofit,” Family Ties, gets taxpayer money, hand over fist, thanks to the county board of supervisors. In addition, just for a client to have “priority” for overnight accommodations, the client has to fork over 50% to 70% of their income to CAPSLO/Family Ties!

          When a business or organization contracts to provide services, it is their responsibility to have proactive plans in place for the times when your facility/ies and/or resources are unable to provide the contracted services. The businesses/organizations don’t just stop providing the contracted services!

          How would you like it if the trash company you use had a truck that broke down so they simply didn’t come pick up your trash? Don’t you think they have the responsibility to have a “Plan B” for the event when the resources they usually use are not available?

          And if that scenario did occur, don’t you think they should reimburse you for the days they simply didn’t pick up your trash?

          If CAPSLO is “scraping” to provide the services they provide, and cannot find the funds to reliably carry out their responsibilities to provide homeless services, then CAPSLO should not have contracted to provide those services.

          In addition, CAPSLO may want to rethink its budget and start making cut-backs.

          They might start with cutting back the salary and perks of the top earners. They also might reconsider getting themselves into such expensive lawsuits. Finally, they may want to consider getting rid of the CAPSLO staff members and officials who have run CAPSLO so poorly that the Office of the Inspector General has had to step in to deal with CAPSLO’s over-charging of its clients for their services.

          I am sure there are other areas where CAPSLO could make cutbacks so that they would have funds to fulfill their obligations.

          (0) 12 Total Votes - 6 up - 6 down
          • OnTheOtherHand says:

            CAPSLO has to rely on the generosity of individuals, organizations and local government agencies to fund their Homeless Program. They can’t just pass on increased costs to paying customers as a private company can.

            Has it ever occurred to you that maybe they haven’t made arrangements to cover every possible emergency budget contingency because they are trying to spread out their resources to benefit the maximum number of people? If you think that, given the large increase in homelessness over the past 5 years, they should concentrate on better help for fewer people, that is your opinion and you have a right to express it.

            However, you seem to regard speculation and claims as facts and ignore the realities of the situation and the financial restrictions under which CAPSLO must operate. For instance, the money CAPSLO requires clients “fork over” goes to Family Ties for controlled redistribution to the clients — not to shelter operations. If you had been reading the articles here with any sort of objectivity, you would have remembered that.

            I am sure that CAPSLO’s administration of the Homeless Program is not perfect — it is run by imperfect human beings. However, from your comments, I doubt that they could ever do anything that would satisfy your “20-200 hindsight.”

            (2) 10 Total Votes - 6 up - 4 down
      • Homer says:

        “Some of the finest luxury hotels on this planet have had bedbug infestations.” Yet, you single out the homeless shelter — the homeless shelter — for not taking steps to prevent a bedbug from entering its premises. As the earlier poster said, if appropriate steps to prevent an infestation were taken, you would be the first in line to scream bloody murder.

        (7) 9 Total Votes - 8 up - 1 down
        • MaryMalone says:

          Please read my post at 07/12/2013 at 1:43 pm, above.

          You, or any other poster, does not know how I would react if CAPSLO had responsibly offered services to their homeless clients who were exposed to bedbugs at CAPSLO’s facilities. Therefore, you can apologize to me for making such a false statement about me, and you can stop using that absurd Scenario of the Unknown to prop up your weak arguments.

          Hotels, especially luxury hotels, have proactive plans to deal with situations where their facility is unable to lodge a guest. In the case of bedbugs, they offer rooms in other parts of their facility (if the infestation is localized to a couple of rooms). If the entire hotel is unavailable, they will have either already found lodging which the client may accept as a replacement for the room the hotel cannot offer. If the guest chose not to accept the arranged alternative lodging, then the hotel would refund the money paid to the hotel to provide overnight lodging.

          What they wouldn’t do is tell the client to go sleep on the sidewalk in front of the hotel!

          (-3) 9 Total Votes - 3 up - 6 down
          • Homer says:

            Strange that you keep using “luxury hotels” as the standard by which a homeless shelter should be judged. Since many others have asked, I will as well: Since you seem so sure that CAPSLO did nothing to plan for the bedbug scenario, please enlighten us as to the steps you would’ve taken. And no fair claiming, “I’m not the homeless shelter director.” That doesn’t cut it.

            (6) 6 Total Votes - 6 up - 0 down
  5. toobleak says:

    You know they are probably other reasons for the closure and that is why nothing has been said. Maybe they have been legal actions taken….I guess once again they leave the public guessing. The healh department needs to check into the shelter and see the disgust. Local beach bum, sit down,no one is listening to you.

    (-7) 27 Total Votes - 10 up - 17 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      What could those “other reasons” be?

      I can’t imagine, of all the excuses to close for a week available, that Dee Torres would actually CHOOSE to associate herself with an outbreak of bedbugs. Those critters have amazing talents for hitching rides to new homes, and she could have easily been exposed to bedbugs herself.

      I don’t think she would really want to know that people are thinking twice before they sit in a chair she sat in, or walk into her carpeted office, for fear of leaving with an unwanted “traveler.”

      (-2) 10 Total Votes - 4 up - 6 down
  6. MaryMalone says:

    A sad state of affairs when CAPSLO’s bedbugs have a place to sleep tonight, but CAPSLO’s homeless clients do not.

    (6) 34 Total Votes - 20 up - 14 down

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