“We’re here today to talk about the Houston boarding home ordinance. And I invited people here that, I need your help. That’s the bottom line.”
Doug Anders leads a new team within HPD’s Mental Health Division that investigates complaints about unlicensed group boarding homes for elderly and disabled people.
In about two months from now, a new city ordinance will go into effect that establishes minimum requirements for boarding homes that are currently unregulated.
The meeting was meant to inform all the agencies that are potentially involved on what the ordinance will do and how Houston police will enforce it.
“We’ll have three investigators who will take complaints from citizenry, from mental health professionals, from other law enforcement agencies, from our own officers. Once we get complaints, we’ll go out and investigate to see what the conditions in the home are and to see if they’re registered.”
City Council passed the boarding home ordinance unanimously two months ago. That coincided with a prominent case in which police freed three malnourished men who were held captive at a boarding home in north Houston.
Council member Ed Gonzalez took the lead on the ordinance. He says it really is a quality of life issue.
“There’s abuse, there’s neglect. There’s different hazards in place that could lead to someone being killed due to a fire, things like that.”
Doug Anders with HPD says there are more than 400 unlicensed boarding homes in Houston, many of which are doing a good job providing care. But police regularly receive complaints about 35 of those homes.
Anders says many owners have made it their profession to hold elderly and disabled people captive and steal their social security benefits.
The new ordinance will enable police to crack down on those that refuse to register with the city.
Anders says HPD will reach out to the community before the ordinance goes into effect at the end of November.
“We’re going out to the community with the law enforcement and the social workers to let them know, hey, we have this ordinance that for these unlicensed homes, we’re going to register them, we’re going to be keeping an eye on them. So if you have to place a client in an unlicensed home, maybe you just want to place him in an unlicensed home that’s registered with the city. It might be safer for them than someone who isn’t registered.”
The ordinance requires operators of unlicensed boarding homes to undergo criminal background checks. They also have to have an annual fire code inspection and keep basic operational records.