Galveston shelter declared threat to ‘life and health’ closed after kids test positive for lead poisoning

Former VP says she warned of problems at Galveston shelter

GALVESTON, Texas – A former vice president for The Children’s Center in Galveston tells KPRC 2 she warned of problems at a shelter months before the Galveston County Health Authority issued an order to vacate.

Angel Wall said she is the former vice president of program support services for the Children’s Center. However, Wall, who is also an attorney, said she only worked for the Center for two weeks.

“I was ready to go because I wasn’t going to risk my reputation, my bar card,” said Wall.

SEE ALSO: The Children’s Center in Galveston forced to close by health officials after conditions were deemed ‘unfit for humans’

Wall provided KPRC 2 Investigates with a copy of an email chronicling several problems she noticed at the Center’s shelter, which provides transitional housing to homeless families.

The email was dated Jan. 20, 2023, and shows it was sent to several board members and Center management.

Wall’s email outlines concerns ranging from a lack of maintenance to lapses in insurance coverage. Wall also gave us pictures she said shows roach infestations and holes in the walls.

Wall said she resigned after sending the email because she worried these problems would be laid at her feet.

“This idea that nobody knew is simply not the case,” Wall said.

A Control Order from the Galveston County Health Authority reported rat, roach, and bed bug infestations in the facility’s living areas and kitchen.

“There were even fresh rat droppings on a baby’s bed,” the order read.

The order also noted high levels of lead inside the facility and that at least three children had lead poisoning.

A fire inspection report also noted numerous problems.

On Saturday, board member Hilda Torres told KPRC 2, “We were aware of the soil testing for lead, but the rest of this, we were just finding out.”

When asked about Wall’s email, Torres said she would reserve comment until a later date.

When KPRC 2 tried to speak with the Center’s CEO and COO, we were told the head of Human Resources would return our call. We have not yet received a response.

Meanwhile, Galveston County Commissioners voted on Monday to move forward with evicting the Center from the buildings on 45th Street. The Center signed a 30-year lease agreement with the County in 1999.

The terms of that lease called for the Center to make $500,000 in improvements to the facility over a three-year period at the beginning of the lease. The agreement also stated it was the Center’s responsibility to maintain the property.

Officials with Galveston County Judge Mark Henry’s Office said once the Health Authority completes its investigation, a report will be sent to the District Attorney’s Office for review.

The executive director of the United Way Galveston County Mainland told KPRC 2 it was seizing its $70,000 annual donation to the problem and scrubbing the facility from the resources tab on its website.

Leslie Ornaleas said she also called for an emergency board meeting because she was not made aware of any problems at the facility until she “saw it on the news.”

When several families were ordered to vacate the property due to health and safety concerns over Easter weekend, they said the Center provided hotel rooms. However, they said that money only lasted five days.

Galveston County is now providing rooms for the families for 10 days and St. Vincent’s House was working on finding more permanent housing, as well as providing immediate needs.

About the Authors:

Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”

Moriah Ballard joined the KPRC 2 digital team in the fall of 2021. Prior to becoming a digital content producer in Southeast Texas and a Houstonian, Moriah was an award-winning radio host in her hometown of Lorain, Ohio and previously worked as a producer/content creator in Cleveland. Her faith, family, and community are her top passions.