Man at Bethel Missions says mattress bugs make circumstances unlivable


A Des Moines man who has to stay at Bethel Missions asks for help to be convicted of what he calls uninhabitable conditions.

Christopher Brewer, 30, was released from the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility in early July and is being held in the temporary shelter north of downtown Des Moines as part of his probation. He said the conditions of the Des Moines registry were unbearable in what he called a bed bug infestation at the facility.

“It was awful, very awful. There are bed bugs everywhere. We have to put our things in garbage bags in a locker so bed bugs don’t get in … but the (lockers) have bed bugs too.” Brewer said.

A spokesman for the Bethel Missions told the register that bed bugs were a “coexistence reality” and that the facility was making every effort to control them. An inspection did not confirm any major infestation.

Brewer told the registry that he will have to stay on the Bethel missions for about 60 days.

His mother, Diane Mazzie, said she tried to reach Brewer’s probation officer, but he would no longer take her calls.

“I don’t want my son to be eaten by bugs – it’s extremely bad, you can see them on the beds,” said Mazzie.

The beetles are ‘excellent hitchhikers’

Bed bugs are classified as a public health pest by the Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The pests are usually around four to five millimeters long and can spread through luggage, purses and other bags. According to a USA Today report, bed bugs are also “excellent hitchhikers” that reproduce quickly, making them difficult to prevent completely.

While they can bite people and cause itching and irritation, they are not known to transmit or spread any disease, according to the EPA.

However, they can cause other health problems like allergic reactions to their bites, skin infections, anxiety, and insomnia, the EPA reported.

Kathy Coady, Hope Ministries communications director, who operates Bethel missions said the facility has worked to address the bugs.

More:What to know and what to do if your hotel room has bed bugs

“We have 110 beds and we have a lot of men living together so it is certainly something that we deal with and we are aggressive with it,” said Coady.

When asked if the current status of bed bugs in Bethel missions would be viewed as a problem, Coady said, “I wouldn’t say there is a problem … we are constantly dealing with bed bugs as it happens.”

The facility defends bed bugs on two fronts, she said – through prevention and treatment. A few years ago, the facility was converted to metal bunks instead of wood, which, according to official information, helps with pest prevention. The men are also required to put on scrubs and put their clothes through a high temperature dryer before settling into the facility.

The facility also uses a bed bug tent heater that covers an entire bunk and heats it to a high temperature for an extended period of time. When the bed is ready, the mattress cover is replaced.

Brewer and Mazzie both said his bunk had been treated but he was still being bitten.

“You’re jumping from bed to bed anyway,” said Mazzie.

Diane Mazzie takes a picture of one of the men's legs at Bethel Missions where he has visible bed bug bites.

No major bed bug infestation is found during the inspection

The Des Moines Neighborhood Inspection Division inspected the facilityIn early July due to complaints. A complaint came from a citizen andanother was presented to the state, which was then passed on to the inspection department, according to SuAnn Donovan, the department’s administrator. Both complaints related to bed bugs in the facility.

No major infestation was found, according to the inspection records submitted by the inspector on July 8, but Bethel Mission staff committed to hiring an outside pest control service every other month to provide comprehensive treatments.

Brewer told the registry that he had asked his probation officer to move him to another facility and said conditions at Bethel were unbearable.

Cord Overton, an Iowa law enforcement agency spokesman, said that while he cannot disclose conversations between a client and a probation officer, he could confirm that an officer will attempt to make new arrangements if a change in standard of living is requested Comply with regulatory requirements and do not endanger public safety.

For now, Brewer and a few others at the facility can leave the facility during the day to escape the bed bugs. Mazzie brings her son and about five other men new clothes to change into to prevent pests from entering their home and other areas.

Mazzie said she still hopes her son can be moved to another facility and receive medical attention because of the bites he received during Bethel missions.

Melody Mercado covers the Des Moines eastern metro for the registry. Reach her at or Twitter @melodymercadotv.