Lexington, NC -- The Crisis Ministry of Davidson County may be forced to close its doors if operators cannot find a solution to a bed bug problem, according to the director.
Gayle Whitehead says if all else fails, 94 people, including children, at Crisis Ministry would lose their home by the end of June.
"I always called myself superwoman who could solve any problem here at this ministry," Whitehead said.
But after 27 years at the shelter, Whitehead has met her match.
"A little bug has caused me to meet my match. We can't get rid of them," she said.
The bed bug problem started some four months ago, according to the shelter director, when a homeless client unknowingly brought the pests in - perhaps on his clothing.
"It's not because our people are dirty. We're not. We're very clean here. It's because they are migrating this way fast," she said.
The little critters have made their home in dozens of beds and wooden furniture at the shelter.
Whitehead says when she and other shelter volunteers finally realized the infestation, it was too late.
Clients tell WFMY News 2 workers have done a great job trying to contain the problem, even cleaning and sanitizing the furniture and beds twice-a-week.
They've steamed the mattresses, treated the wood with alcohol, caulked holes in the frames and brought in a pest control company, but still, the bugs have barely budged.
Whitehead suspects more than 40 beds are currently infested.
"If we don't rectify and get the bugs out of here, we will have to close because the schools are calling our children have bites on them, it's possible that they can take them in their clothing to school. So we would have to close both shelters and that would put 94 people on the street," Whitehead explained.
She also says it would cost about $66,000 to replace the wooden beds with metal ones; and new mattress, she says, are bed bugs-proof.
Whitehead has asked the Lexington City Council and Davidson County commissioners for help.
There are meetings scheduled in June with both groups to further discuss the issue before any decision is made.
Meanwhile, clients like Larry Thomas and Guy Gustafson say they're worried about where an eviction would leave them.
"[We] would have nowhere to go," said Thomas.
Gustafson says he is already researching options and has yet to come up with a possible new home.
"The only thing we can do right now is wait to see what happens,' he said.
When WFMY News 2's Faith Abubey posted the story on Facebook, Pest Management Systems in Greensboro reached out to help.
The owner Billy Tesh and an employee went to the shelter Thursday afternoon to evaluate the work it would take to rid of the bed bugs at the nonprofit.
They estimate it would cost $8,000. Tesh says he will do the job at no cost to the shelter.
However, Crisis Ministry of Davidson County still needs money to buy new beds.
If you can help, you can reach them at:
Crisis Ministry of Davidson County
107 E. 1st Ave.
Lexington, NC 27292