Bed bugs beware: Shelter builds bed bug-killing truck

A Saskatoon shelter hopes a new lean mean bed-bug killing machine will help keep people in housing.

"We do see people check into the shelters just exhausted from the fight and just feeling like there's no other options to provide safety for their family," DeeAnn Mercier, with the Lighthouse in Saskatoon told CBC Radio's Blue Sky.

The Lighthouse, an emergency shelter and provider of affordable housing, has received federal money to purchase a truck and trailer that can act as a heat chamber in the summer and cold chamber in the winter to kill bed bugs.

Mercier said some people who come to the Lighthouse are choosing homelessness rather than living with bed bugs.

"It's hard to keep any possessions out. It's hard to live your life. You feel like every scratch or itch you may have is a bed bug," she said.

"When you have bed bugs your sense of security feels taken away."

Mercier said in some buildings, bed bugs have become so out of control and the landlord doesn't seem to take care of it. For the people she deals with who have young kids or a family, it's a major concern.

On the other hand, said Mercier, landlords may evict tenants because of continued bed bug problems. Once word gets out that you're a tenant who has had bed bugs, no one will rent to you, she said.

Mercier said the Lighthouse has also had bed bugs. But now, thanks to the truck, clothing and furniture can be treated off-site and nobody needs to be turned away. The truck is mobile and can be used in the rest of the community as well.

She said the Lighthouse is hoping to get rid of the stigma around bed bugs.

"We know that it's not because of a hygiene issues. It's just something that's become just much more common in Saskatoon and so we want to help people be able to treat that so they don't end up having to use the homeless shelter or living under a bridge."

Mercier said they hope to have the bed-bug-killing truck ready by the end of March.