HOUSTON – Harris County Precinct 7 deputy constables forced their way into an unlicensed group home in southeast Harris County and found more than three dozen elderly residents, most with medical conditions, crammed into a four-bedroom house with only one working toilet.
On Monday afternoon, a woman living in New York called the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and said she’d received a phone call from her 62-year-old brother, who has a mental illness, saying that he was being held against his will and feard for his life as a resident at the home.
The case was referred to the Precinct 7 Constable’s Office.
When deputy constables arrived at the house just after 3 p.m., two attendants inside refused to let them in. Officials kicked in the door and discovered one of the worst conditions seen in three decades, according to one of the peace officers.
They found 37 residents, most of them elderly and ill, assigned to beds that were crowded into bedrooms, a den upstairs and even a garage, investigators said. It appeared that nine people were living side by side, investigators described.
Officials said the home was dirty and bug-infested. Residents told investigators they hadn’t been fed, according to deputies.
The pantry and the refrigerator were barren and residents medications were spread out in plastic containers on the kitchen counter.
The discovery came as a surprise to some neighbors.
Paul Stewart said he’d noticed an ambulance was called to the home in late August, but didn’t realize there were so many people living there.
“Thirty-seven people, are you kidding me?” he said. “They really kept this hush, hush. This is really a shock.”
When neighbor Benna McGowen stuck her head inside the front door and saw the living conditions, she couldn’t hold back the tears.
“That’s not the way God wants us to treat one another,” McGowen said. “That’s not what God would want.”
Thirteen residents were taken to local hospitals, including a man with open sores on his abdomen, officials said. Eighteen others were placed in license group homes or assisted living centers by the State Department of Family and Protective Services, two were turned over to family members and two left on their own, officials said.
The Constable’s Office identified the home’s operator as Carroll Richardson. Officials said he runs several other similar homes and has been investigated by the Houston Police Department in the past. Now, he’s under investigation again.
No arrests or charges have been reported in the case so far.