01/13/2012 09:04 EST | Updated 03/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Bedbug infestation shuts rehab centre

Just as the temperature plummets and winter truly arrives in Montreal, a bedbug infestation has forced a rehab centre to turn away its homeless and addicted clients.

Centre Bonsecours had to shut down its main building and close 30 beds, after extensive efforts to rid the detoxification centre of bedbugs failed.

"We had to pull up the baseboards," said program coordinator Gaétan Brière, as he walked through the centre's deserted rooms, mattresses stripped of bedding and furniture pushed to one side.

The centre tried everything, even forcing new residents to put their belongings in a freezer overnight.

Finally, last November, it took the drastic step of closing an entire wing while it awaits funds from the city of Montreal and the Quebec provincial government, to undertake an estimated $450,000 in renovations.

Those renovations are expected to take at least a year.

Centre director Josée Ricard says Bonsecours is turning away 15 to 20 homeless men in need of drug and alcohol treatment each day.

"Place is limited," said Brian Hedges, 50, who was lucky enough to secure a spot in the unaffected wing of the centre in early January.

Clients are now having to triple up in the 23 two-room apartments meant for single occupants.

At homeless shelters across Montreal, bedbugs are a constant concern.

"We're so tuned into it. We try to nip it as soon as there's any kind of a sign of infestation," said Matthew Pearce, the executive-director of the Old Brewery Mission.

Clients are now forced to put their belongings in plastic bags, he said. They're provided with clean clothes, and a nightly shower is mandatory.