A SoCal assisted living facility is being accused of punishing the disabled if they didn't attend religious services, forcing them to stand by a tree for hours on end, and locking them inside the facility for days, according to a lawsuit filed by the LA City attorney. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2014.
Residents of two assisted living facilities for the disabled have until Wednesday morning to find other places to live after the LA City Attorney cracked down on unlicensed homes he called nightmares.
Los Angele City Attorney Mike Feuer filed a civil enforcement action against the operators of two unlicensed assisted living facilities for allegedly jeopardizing the health and safety of physically and mentally disabled residents.
The complaint alleges that the defendants violated the residents’ personal rights, subjecting them to deplorable, overcrowded, unsafe and unsanitary living conditions.
"One toilet and one shower for over 50 individuals and filth, dirt, overcrowding, severe overcrowding," Asst. LA City Attorney Jose Egurbide said.
A court-appointed receiver will immediately begin to work with state, county and local agencies to relocate people who were living there.
The two facilities, Agape Mission House and Agape Home Church, in Los Angeles’ historic Adams District, have a long history breaking rules and violating health regulations, Feuer said.
“You sleep on a mattresses that are paper thin,” Feuer said. “The kind of conditions in which you or I would never want one of our loved ones to live in. And yet these are the conditions that we allege the people at this facility had been enduring for months and sometimes for years.”
Facility owners declined to comment.
"I have been inside, I have seen the floors nasty, I have seen the kitchen nasty," a neighbor, who did not want to be identified, said.
Some residents spoke positively about the facility.
Sangh Yeon Dowling, a resident, said he has until Wednesday morning to find another place to live.
“This is a nice place,” he said. They gave me breakfast, lunch and dinner and I got a place to sleep in.”
Feuer contends physically and mentally disabled residents were placed in overcrowded and substandard living conditions and were subjected to bizarre punishments if they failed to attend religious services held twice a day.
The punishments included being forced to stand by a tree for up to four hours, being ordered to translate Bible verses for a full day, being locked inside the facility for days, being forced to sleep outside, having their access to the kitchen and pantry blocked and having their county or federal benefit cards confiscated.
Resident James Calixte has experienced some of these so-called punishments.
"I sat (by the tree) for two hours and after I went to go speak to pastor and he decreased my punishment to absolute nothing," Calixte said.
Despite what some may consider poor living conditions, Calixte is happy with Agape Mission House.
"He’s Korean, I’m Haitian. Im from Haiti you know? and he had welcomed me into his home. So I'm happy. I was homeless on Skid Row, you know? Sleeping outside in the cold," Calixte said.
According to the City Attorney's Office, the operators can be subjected to a penalty of between $2,500 and $7,500 for each act that threatens the health of residents.