Neighbors of a Family Care Home on Lawton Avenue are receiving letters from a state agency that may have allowed potentially dangerous conditions to exist in a facility that brought mentally ill individuals into their neighborhood.
The Bronx Psychiatric Center, in conjunction with the New York State Office of Mental Health, left letters in the mailboxes of homes on Lawton Avenue between Calhoun and Revere avenues asking residents about their thoughts concerning the quality of a Family Care Center recently closed abruptly due to mismanagement.
The letter from OMH, dated October 27, is from Harry Larkin, a risk management specialist at BPC. It asks neighbors’ opinions about a facility operated for profit in a private home at 2853 Lawton Avenue that was supposed to serve as a program similar to foster care for adults who were recently released from in-patient psychiatric care.
“I have been asked to conduct a review of the Family Care Home which has operated at 2853 Lawton Avenue,” Larkin stated in the letter. “I am interested in your opinions of the home and what your experiences have been with the clients who have lived there over the past three years.”
While initial reports from the neighborhood indicated that there might have been up to a dozen men living at the family care center, a more realistic number of three men in their 40s and 50s has been established after numerous inquires into the matter.
The grown men who lived in the house were sent back BPC over one month ago when it was discovered they had been left unsupervised, and neighbors complaints about panhandling, urinating on the street, and trespassing on private property were finally heard.
“The [investigation] activity that is going on right now in the community is a follow-up of concerns and complaints voiced by some of the neighbors,” said Jill Daniels, spokeswoman for OMH. “The investigation is still underway, and right now we have no further comment.”
Many who live nearby have been making police reports and living in fear for the past three years, when they first began to notice totally out of place behavior from the occupants of the home.
One neighbor, who has young children and does not wish to be indentified for fear of harassment by her neighbor who ran the Family Care Center, said that she phoned the police shortly after the BPC clients moved into 2853 Lawton Avenue. Two of the residents, on separate occasions, had come onto her porch and stood at her door, on private property, and wouldn’t leave.
“One of the residents of the program always had a foul smell and you could tell that he didn’t bathe,” the neighbor said. “I would see him panhandling at the corner of E. Tremont and Miles avenues for money and cigarettes, which was really out of character for this area.”
The woman said she observed only one other adult in the home with the three clients, and said that there was absolutely no supervision. She said feared for the safety of her children.
“I called the number on the letter, and finally spoke to someone of Bronx Psychiatric Center, but they just told me that the matter was confidential, and that it was being investigated – they didn’t seem to care,” she said. “There was no staff in the house or supervision, and I had to tell my children not to get too close to them. I think [the owner of the house] was just taking the money and not taking care of the clients.”