Urban Ministries of Durham dealing with mildew, bed bug concerns

Michael Perchick Image
Friday, July 20, 2018

DURHAM, NC (WTVD) -- The Executive Director of Urban Ministries of Durham acknowledged the facility is dealing with mildew and bed bugs during a sit-down interview with ABC 11 Friday.

"When residents raise issues, we work to try and be responsive to those things," explained Sheldon Mitchell, the Executive Director. "That's all part of what we're here for is to try and provide an environment that's hopefully a safe haven for them."

He noted a since-repaired leaky pipe in the women's dormitory was partially to blame for some of the mildew and pledged more regular washings and stricter attention to detail.

"Within the showers and restroom facilities, that needs to get a pressure washed and scrubbed down on a more routine basis," said Mitchell.

Areas where mildew was growing have been treated, and county officials have suggested a cleanliness checklist used in other buildings for the facility to utilize.

Mitchell noted the facility is understaffed, and they're looking to hire a maintenance lead. This week, an operations director started, with an emphasis on improving cleanliness in the facility.

The shelter assists more than 5,000 people annually with a variety of needs, ranging from shelter to food. Mitchell said he believes the high volume of clients has exacerbated these issues.

He explained bed bugs are a periodic problem, but they're working on a renovation to increase storage space to move some personal belongings out of the dorm. While Mitchell does not want to further limit the amount of belongings that clients can bring into the facility, they are looking to other shelters for ideas to combat the issue.

"When we visited the shelter in Charlotte, they actually have a bed bug tent. It is something to treat people's belongings when they get in, to actually kill bed bugs before they get into the shelter," Mitchell said.

Off-camera, two clients expressed concerns about cleanliness, pointing to bed bugs, mildew, ventilation and air circulation issues.

An inspector with the City of Durham Neighborhood Improvement Services Department was recently called to inspect the property. He discovered four violations, two of which related to ventilation and extreme dampness or moisture on surfaces. The property will be re-evaluated next month.

A city of Durham spokesperson said if the violations are not addressed during the re-inspection, the city will send a Finding of Fact and Order letter, demanding it be brought into compliance with the Housing Code.

Durham County owns the emergency shelter, while St. Phillip's Episcopal Church owns the Resource Center. Urban Ministries of Durham leases the property from both for $1 a year.

Mitchell said he hopes to improve outreach with Durham County officials, to better address these issues.