‘Hidden in plain sight:’ Officials shut down another unlicensed boarding home facility in Harris Co.

HOUSTON – The Harris County Sheriff’s Office along with the Fire Marshal’s office is enforcing the County Commissioners’ new requirements on boarding homes in our area.

Since December, the two agencies have temporarily shut down three unlicensed boarding homes across unincorporated parts of Harris County.

“We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg on this,” said public information officer Rachel Neutzler. “There are a lot of boarding homes we just don’t know about.”

Neutzler says they issued an order for an unlicensed boarding home in the 11000 block of Greenmesa Drive where six residents lived.

“We got into the home, there were numerous fire and life safety issues,” Neutzler said.

She said the building lacked smoke detectors, a working fire extinguisher, and there wasn’t a clear exit path, in case of fire.

KPRC 2′s Rilwan Balogun spoke with Meredith James who said she is the operator of the business. James says she tried to follow the new guidance from the county.

There weren’t any requirements for the living facilities in unincorporated Harris County until last March when commissioners changed the fire code to include boarding home regulations.

Operators were given six months from March 1, 2021, to be up-to-date with the requirements.

“They came in and cited some things, minor things,” James said. “No malnutrition, no abuse.”

James said she plans to address all the fire and safety issues cited by the two agencies and apply for re-inspection.

Neutzler says there are just nine boarding homes in unincorporated parts of the county with permits.

“This is some of our most vulnerable people in the community,” Neutzler said. “A lot of times, these places are hidden in plain sight.”

Neutzler said there are some warning signs residents and first responders should keep an eye on. “If there’s heavy traffic, or people that they see in wheelchairs, or people coming and going, or a lot of ambulances,” she said those are signs of a potential boarding home.

Neutzler also said people should contact the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office to open an investigation at 713-274-1700.

“We may be able to investigate it,” she said. “If it’s unfounded and permitted, that’s great. But, if it’s not, we really want to get the people that need this care, that are the most vulnerable in society, to get them an appropriate place.”

The six residents at the Greenmesa Drive location were picked up by family members or relocated to other facilities.

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