Mid-City residents express concern over neighborhood group home

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - People who live near a group home in Mid-City are worried the elderly residents are being neglected.

Mid-City resident, John Miller, took pictures of men and women sitting outside behind Shekinah Glory, a home for mentally ill adults, in the heat of summer. He says Shekinah residents spend most of their days lounging around the vacant house that separates their group home from his private residence. Miller says lately, he has gotten an eye full.

"The conditions are horrific. We've literally had folks out here squatting and taking a poo in the front yards and trespassing and using it as their smoking lounge," said Miller.

He's also taken pictures of men going through the home's dumpster. While there's no denying it's gross to watch, Miller and others who live nearby say they are more concerned with the health of their neighbors.

"The patients have been left to wander, sit outside un-bathed for days at a time, wear same clothes. You don't keep animals in the conditions they keep these folks in," said Miller.

The director of Shekinah Glory, Debra Kennedy, invited our cameras inside for a look. She showed us pantries full of food, a daily feeding schedule, and clarified that the home is a place for folks to lay their heads, not a medical facility.

"This is a ministry. This is what real ministry is all about," said Kennedy.

We asked Kennedy about the residents we saw sitting outside in the hot sun and brought up the other concerns neighbors discussed with us. Kennedy says it's part of life there. "Welcome to Mid-City. Mid-City is full of people walking around with nowhere to go and most of them are mentally ill," said Kennedy.

Kennedy says she sets a 10 p.m. curfew for the 18 adults who live at Shekinah, but other than that, they are free to come and go as they please. As for an incident that happened last Friday in which one resident got the public's attention on social media after reportedly passing out in front of the Cracker Barrel convenience store, Kennedy said, "He does it for attention. He's a pan handler. He works the neighborhood and he knows how to do it."

9News spoke to managers inside the Cracker Barrel and two other businesses next door to Shekinah. The managers say it's a common occurrence and the residents do not bother them or their patrons. Kennedy acknowledges it's a sad situation, but says she's running her facility according to state standards.

"We have a broken system that needs to be fixed. We need more homes, more love," said Kennedy.

Miller and his neighbors says that's not good enough however. He has complained to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, Adult Protective Services, and EBR Parish, but so far, he has not seen any changes. He says what he has seen there is unacceptable.

"It's a crooked state then, plain and simple," said Miller.

The DHH says Shekinah Glory is in compliance with state laws and the state does take all complaints seriously.

The number to report adult abuse or neglect is 1-800-898-4910. The owner of the vacant home says he is having a fence built to help keep group home residents off of his property.

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