Two moms who were looking for a safe place for their teenagers to live said that The Children’s Center, Inc. in Galveston was a terrible place. After only a few weeks, the head of the county health department shut down the center, saying it was one of the dirtiest places he had ever seen.
The center’s website states that for nearly 145 years, the nonprofit has provided “safety, housing, and mentoring for those who are abandoned, abused, neglected, and exploited.”
Alexia Francuz, who was staying at the shelter with her 15-year-old son, told ABC13 on Monday that the conditions there were “unacceptable.”
“It was horrible. There is a mold smell as soon as you walk into either house. It does not matter what you do. It comes back. It’s just bad there. The conditions weren’t acceptable. The bathrooms alone were not acceptable. The toilets were backed up, and the water wasn’t running,” Francuz said.
The Galveston County Health District
Dr. Philip Keiser of the Galveston County Health District said that the investigation started when a child staying at the center went to a regular doctor’s appointment and tested positive for lead poisoning. This caused them to send environmental health experts to check out the conditions at the facility.
“It’s literally one of the dirtiest places I’ve ever been to. There’s dirt on the floor. There’s dust everywhere. That’s important because that’s the way children get lead poisoning. The new people track the dust into the house, and you get some kids crawling through it,” Keiser said.
“When we went into one house, it smelled like garbage. We looked in the back and found the lift, which is where the water heater is. He said, “There was just dirty water standing there, and the drain was clogged.”
Officials said that there was a lot of lead, rat poop, rotting food, and roach, bed bug, and flea infections. Several fire code rules were broken, so the fire marshal was also called. Because of this, the health department told the Children’s Center to stop doing business. Health officials in Galveston County had to close a children’s center because the living conditions were so bad.
Keiser said that their top goal right now is getting the children with lead poisoning treated at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) and working with St. Vincent’s House to find housing for those who had to leave. You must see that the Texas Senate puts focus on property tax, higher education, and children’s safety check out the Top Priorities For The Legislative Session.
“These are families in trouble, and this has been a very hard thing for them to go through. I think that as social workers or just as people, we should treat people the way we want to be treated. Paula Tobon, who is the executive head of St. Vincent’s House, said, “It’s not okay what we’re hearing and seeing.”
“It’s very heartbreaking to see that they had to be exposed to these conditions. They deserve to have that love and support,” Mariana Monterrubio, a bilingual case manager for St. Vincent’s House, said.
Some of the displaced people, like Kelly Needham and her two kids, are now staying at a hotel in the area. But they aren’t sure how long they can stay. They want the people in charge of the building to take some responsibility. More latest news here about the Texas Mom Found Guilty Of Drowning Children And Burying Them Under a Neighbor’s House.
“We were unpacking the first night, and I sat down on the bed. There were roaches everywhere. The whole mattress smelled like urine. It was gross. I mean, who would expect somebody to bring their kids, especially into a place like that?” Needham said.
Donations and funds from the government pay for the Children’s Center. Keiser said that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gives some of the money, and Galveston County rents the building on the condition that the center takes care of all the repairs.
“This is a very long-standing agreement. The federal government gave it to the county on the basis that there be a shelter there. The county said, ‘Fine.’ They put up bids, and the Children’s Center bid on it. They provided not only the property rent-free, but for a period of time, provided them a stipend every year,” Keiser said.
The executive director of United Way Galveston County Mainland, Leslie Ornelas, said they give $70,000 to the center each year. When she heard about the accusations, she said. The Children’s Center was removed from its website as a client resource. She also asked the board to hold an emergency meeting to discuss her idea of stopping giving the center money for the rest of the year. You can see the youtube video below down:
According to its tax returns, the Children’s Center made more than $2.6 million in 2019. The Galveston County Health District is now working on a report to send to the Texas State Department of Health and Human Services, which is in charge of the charity, according to the agency. They will also look into other places in Galveston County where the Center could be. Dr. Keiser said that it would be up to the state to decide whether or not to start a criminal probe.
“I don’t know about the details of the finances of this place, but I can tell you, they weren’t spending it on those buildings. So what are they doing with all that grant money? I think as a lay person, that’s the kind of question I would ask, and that’s the question we will pass on to the regulatory authorities,” Keiser said.
ABC13 asked the directors and board members of the Children’s Center for on-camera interviews, but they didn’t get back to them before the Monday night deadline.