Bedbugs shut down Bennington homeless shelter - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Bedbugs shut down Bennington homeless shelter

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"We are extremely busy; we have 150 people on the waitlist. We work the waitlist by updating and calling and reconnecting with those people every week to 10 days. Our beds don't stay empty for more than 24 hours," said Stacey New, the director of the Bennington Coalition for the Homeless.

New says although you may not be able to see it every day, hundreds of people are homeless in the town at any given time. The coalition runs the only two shelters in Bennington, but a recent infestation of bedbugs has changed that.

"We experienced with a transient population-- we got an infestation of bedbugs that became quite significant in a short amount of time that forced us to close that location down for an extensive cleaning," New said.

The shelter in North Bennington will remain closed for several months while exterminators heat and chemically treat the infestation. New says the shelter houses only women and children, who are all placed in temporary locations, including motels.

"You know the old saying a chain is only as strong as its weakest link-- and sometimes links break, whether it's corruption, embezzlement, bedbugs, things that nobody ever anticipated, it does. It creates pressures and it will create even more pressure on motels," said Dave Yacovone, the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Children and Families.

The extermination process will cost the coalition thousands of dollars, and it's already working on an extremely tight budget. New says they will not be able to provide resources for motel vouchers. And with deadline approaching for new voucher restrictions to begin, New says the reality is families will be evicted from motels.

"We are bracing for that," New said. "We do have a couple of backup plans; we are literally talking about tents. In this interim period we have reconfigured some of our locations to accommodate more people."

And while the coalition tries to juggle the Aug. 1 deadline with the high cost of exterminations, they will only be able to offer what is donated by the community.

The shelter has been working to recover from serious financial problems. The previous director resigned suddenly in February. Since then, New says they have been working with the state to clean up their books and repay any debt.

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