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*‘They Just Dumped Him Like Trash’: Nursing Homes Evict Vulnerable

Nursing homes across the country are kicking out old and disabled residents
and sending them to homeless shelters and rundown motels.


On a chilly afternoon in April, Los Angeles police found an old,
disoriented man crumpled on a Koreatown sidewalk.

Several days earlier, RC Kendrick, an 88-year-old with dementia, was living
at Lakeview Terrace, a nursing home with a history of regulatory problems.
His family had placed him there to make sure he got round-the-clock care
after his condition deteriorated and he began disappearing for days at a

But on April 6, the nursing home deposited Mr. Kendrick at an unregulated
boardinghouse — without bothering to inform his family. Less than 24 hours
later, Mr. Kendrick was wandering the city alone.

According to three Lakeview employees, Mr. Kendrick’s ouster came as the
nursing home was telling staff members to try to clear out less-profitable
residents to make room for a new class of customers who would generate more
revenue: patients with Covid-19.

More than any other institution in America, nursing homes have come to
symbolize the deadly destruction of the coronavirus crisis. More than
51,000 residents and employees of nursing homes and long-term care
facilities have died, representing more than 40 percent of the total death
toll in the United States.

But even as they have been ravaged, nursing homes have also been enlisted
in the response to the outbreak. They are taking on coronavirus-stricken
patients to ease the burden on overwhelmed hospitals — and, at times, to
bolster their bottom lines.

A Lakeview official said the company’s evictions were appropriate and
weren’t an attempt to free space for Covid-19 patients. But similar scenes
are playing out at nursing homes nationwide. They are kicking out old and
disabled residents — among the people most susceptible to the coronavirus —
and shunting them into homeless shelters, rundown motels and other unsafe
facilities, according to 22 watchdogs in 16 states, as well as dozens of
elder-care lawyers, social workers and former nursing home executives.

Many of the evictions, known as involuntary discharges, appear to violate
federal rules that require nursing homes to place residents in safe
locations and to provide them with at least 30 days’ notice before forcing
them to leave.

While the popular conception of nursing homes is of places where elderly
people live, much of their business is caring for patients of all ages and
income levels who are recovering from surgery or acute illnesses like
strokes. Medicare often pays for short-term rehabilitation stints; Medicaid
covers longer-term stays for poor people.

Nursing homes have long had a financial incentive to evict Medicaid
patients in favor of those who pay through private insurance or Medicare,
which reimburses nursing homes at a much higher rate than Medicaid. More
than 10,000 residents and their families complained to watchdogs about
being discharged in 2018, the most recent year for which data are available.

The pandemic has intensified the situation.

With nursing homes not allowing visitors, there is less outside scrutiny of
their practices. Fifteen state-funded ombudsmen said in interviews that
some homes appear to be taking advantage of that void to evict vulnerable

Many nursing homes are struggling in part because one of their most
profitable businesses — post-surgery rehab — has withered as states
restricted hospitals from performing nonessential services.

Treating Covid-19 patients quickly became a popular way to fill that
financial void.

Last fall, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid changed the formula for
reimbursing nursing homes, making it more profitable to take in sicker
patients for a short period of time. Covid-19 patients can bring in at
least $600 more a day in Medicare dollars than people with relatively mild
health issues, according to nursing home executives and state officials.

“They could be big money for nursing homes,” said David Grabowski, a
professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School.

It is not always about the money. Several states, including New York, New
Jersey and California, urged nursing homes to accept Covid-19 patients to
help relieve pressure on hospitals. Some nursing home employees worried
that would endanger their vulnerable residents.

There is no national data on the number of nursing home residents who have
been moved into homeless shelters, motels and other facilities. The New
York Times contacted more than 80 state-funded nursing-home ombudsmen in 46
states for a tally of involuntary discharges during the pandemic at
facilities they monitor. Twenty six ombudsmen, from 18 states, provided
figures to The Times: a total of more than 6,400 discharges, many to
homeless shelters.

“We’re dealing with unsafe discharges, whether it be to a homeless shelter
or to unlicensed facilities, on a daily basis, and Covid-19 has made this
all more urgent,” said Molly Davies, the Los Angeles ombudsman, whose
office works with residents at about 400 nursing homes.

In Connecticut, a nursing-home resident was told he had less than a week to
pack his things and move to a homeless shelter, according to the resident’s
lawyer. In Philadelphia, a nursing home planned to discharge a resident
with schizophrenia to the city’s office of homeless services, which was
closed during the pandemic. A lawyer said she intervened to stop the
eviction on the grounds that it was unsafe.

In New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic, nursing homes tried to
discharge at least 27 residents to homeless shelters from February through
May, according to data from the New York City Department of Homeless
Services. Ombudsmen and city officials blocked many of the discharges,
which they said were medically unsafe.

But those figures are most likely a dramatic undercount. “What we’re seeing
is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Susan Dooha, executive director of
Center for Independence of the Disabled, a nonprofit group that is the home
of the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program in New York City.

Traditionally, ombudsmen would regularly go to nursing homes. In March,
though, ombudsmen — and residents’ families — were required to stop
visiting. Evictions followed.

“It felt opportunistic, where some homes were basically seizing the moment
when everyone is looking the other way to move people out,” said Laurie
Facciarossa Brewer, a long-term care ombudsman in New Jersey.

Nursing homes are allowed to evict residents if they aren’t able to pay for
their care, are endangering others in the facility or have sufficiently
recovered. Under federal law, before discharging patients against their
will, nursing homes are required to give formal notice to the resident and
to the ombudsman’s office. They must also find a safe alternative location
for the resident to go, whether that is an assisted living facility, an
apartment or, in rare circumstances, a homeless shelter.

But some homes have figured out a workaround: They pressure residents to
leave. Many residents assume they have no choice, and the nursing homes
often do not report them to ombudsmen.

That is what David Mellor said happened to him. Mr. Mellor, 54, was
recovering from spinal surgery that left him numb from the neck down at a
nursing home in Fremont, Calif. In April, Mr. Mellor said, the staff at the
Windsor Park Care Center, an 85-bed facility, told him that he had to go to
a hotel to clear the way for coronavirus patients. Mr. Mellor, who had been
trying to arrange long-term housing, felt he had no choice and agreed to

“I saw what was going on,” Mr. Mellor said. “They were forcing people out.”
At the Radisson Hotel in Oakland, which was being used to house the
homeless, Mr. Mellor said there was no one to help him learn to walk again
or to assist him with the medications he takes to control his blood sugar
and pain.

A spokesman for the Windsor Park Care Center declined to comment. It is
part of a chain owned by Lee Samson, a major fund-raiser
President Trump. “Whatever my political affiliation, Windsor’s commitment
to protecting its residents will never be compromised,” Mr. Samson said.

Nursing home evictions can be disruptive and dangerous during normal times
— and even more so during a pandemic that preys on the elderly and those
with underlying medical conditions.

In March, seven groups that represent nursing home residents wrote to New
York’s health department, urging it to stop nursing homes from evicting
residents because they are “particularly vulnerable to the Covid-19 virus.”
Such discharges, especially to homeless shelters, they wrote, “pose
particular public health risks, due to the close living quarters in
shelters.” The letter also warned that sending patients from nursing homes
— hotbeds of the coronavirus — into the community could hasten the spread
of the disease.

Advocates for nursing home residents have also urged California’s health
department to halt evictions.

While at least four states have restricted nursing homes from evicting
patients during the pandemic, New York and California have not. Some
companies appear to be taking advantage.

In California, Rockport Healthcare Services, which manages the state’s
largest chain of for-profit nursing homes, has repeatedly been cited by
state regulators for illegal evictions.

On March 31, with Covid-19 cases soaring, a Rockport executive wrote in an
email to colleagues that they should begin “discharge planning
immediately,” noting that any discharges should be done safely.

Dr. Michael Wasserman, who was the chief executive of Rockport until 2018,
said that was code to kick out the least-lucrative residents. “You are
looking to replace the poorest, least profitable patients with the highest
paying ones,” said Dr. Wasserman, who resigned after clashing with the
chain’s owner.

This spring, Los Angeles County designated three of Rockport’s nursing
homes as preferred destinations for Covid-19 patients. Since then, one of
them has tried unsuccessfully to evict at least two residents against their
will, according to a lawyer who was contacted by the residents’ families.

David Silver, the chief executive of Rockport, said the company was trying
to be a good partner to the state by making room for an expected surge of
Covid-19 patients. “This has absolutely nothing to do with money,” he said.
He declined to comment on individual residents, citing confidentiality.

In New York City, the Silvercrest Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in
Queens tried to evict more than 20 residents at one point in March,
according to residents and elder care lawyers. Employees at Silvercrest —
including the director of social services — told residents or family
members that the discharges were necessary to free beds for Covid-19

Abraham Hightower, a 57-year-old man on Medicaid who suffers from kidney
problems and high blood pressure, arrived at Silvercrest in January. Since
then, the home has tried to evict him three times.

In February, Silvercrest tried to send him to a Best Western hotel that New
York City uses as a homeless shelter, according to Mr. Hightower and his
lawyer. He appealed and an administrative judge determined that such a
facility was not appropriate given his health needs.

Mr. Hightower said he was told by Silvercrest employees that they were
evicting residents to make way for Covid-19 patients. In March, he received
another discharge notice, this time sending him to a homeless shelter in
Manhattan, according to records reviewed by The Times. When Mr. Hightower
appealed, Silvercrest backed down.

This month, Silvercrest issued the third eviction notice. Mr. Hightower’s
appeal is pending.

“They just want to get rid of me,” he said.

Michael Tretola, the president of Silvercrest, declined to comment on Mr.
Hightower’s case or to say how many residents have been evicted. “The
health and safety of every patient under our care is always our first
concern,” he said.

Lakeview Terrace in Los Angeles, which evicted the 88-year-old Mr.
Kendrick, has a history of illegally ousting residents. In February 2019,
the Los Angeles city attorney, Mike Feuer, reached a $600,000 settlement
with the nursing home to resolve accusations that it had illegally evicted
mentally ill and homeless residents. As part of that settlement, in which
Lakeview denied wrongdoing, prosecutors appointed someone to monitor the
facility. As the coronavirus intensified in March, the monitor had to stop

Around this time, said three Lakeview employees, who weren’t authorized to
speak publicly, their superiors began encouraging them to find ways to
discharge residents to make room for coronavirus patients.

On April 6, the staff moved Mr. Kendrick to an unlicensed boardinghouse in
Van Nuys, Calif., about 20 miles away.

The next day, the police called Mr. Kendrick’s nephew, Darryl Kennedy. They
had found his uncle, who had wandered away from the boardinghouse, Mr.
Kennedy said.

“They just dumped him like trash,” Mr. Kennedy said.

David Weaver, the administrator of Lakeview Terrace, wouldn’t say why Mr.
Kendrick was evicted, citing confidentiality, but he said all of the
nursing home's discharges were “clinically appropriate.”

Mr. Weaver said that while Lakeview — which has space for 99 patients — has
discharged or transferred 16 residents since March, it had not done so to
make room for coronavirus patients and in fact had not knowingly admitted

After the police found Mr. Kendrick, Mr. Kennedy agreed to let his uncle
stay with him, even though he could not provide the level of supervision
that Mr. Kendrick would have received at Lakeview.

About a month later, Mr. Kennedy woke up at 3 a.m. to find Mr. Kendrick
standing over him with a steak knife. His uncle stabbed him in the back and
the head. Mr. Kennedy called the police. He needed 30 stitches.

Mr. Kendrick turned 89 on May 6. He spent his birthday at the Los Angeles
County jail, about four miles from Lakeview Terrace.

Jessica Silver-Greenberg is an investigative reporter on the business desk.
She was previously a finance reporter at the Wall Street Journal. @
jbsgreenberg <https://twitter.com/jbsgreenberg> • Facebook

Amy Julia Harris is an investigative reporter on the Metro desk. She
previously worked at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting,
where her team project on drug rehab programs that require patients to work
for free was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2018.  @amyjharris
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