Disabled Nursing Home Residents Repeatedly Abandoned During Hurricane Laura Have Been Rescued
The residents were living in 100-degree weather without basic necessities.
September 08, 2020 at 10:32 pm
Thirteen disabled and/or elderly residents at a Lake Charles, Louisiana, nursing home facility were rescued after being repeatedly abandoned following the landfall of Hurricane Laura in August.
Aerobridge and Crowdsource Rescue (CSR), a Texas-based non-profit that assists civilian disaster response activities, have evacuated those residents, including a double amputee, from Golden Arms Public Housing Complex nursing home on Aug. 29.
CSR released a detailed report and timeline of the evacuation, highlighting the lack of response from several agencies and the extreme neglect the residents faced.
Hurricane Laura landed in Louisiana on Aug. 27 around 1 a.m. local time with 150mph wind speeds. After surveying the damage, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said the hurricane was "the strongest storm to ever strike Louisiana," KALB reported.
At the time of the hurricane, multiple residents remained at the facility due to the lack of transportation prior to the storm.
The next day, on Aug. 28, a bus arrived at Golden Arms but residents were forced off the bus to assist with moving National Guard soldiers.
Golden Arms which is a HUD-owned facility is located across the street from a National Guard Base.
Other attempts were made to transport the residents away from the nursing home, yet each mission failed with the residents repeatedly turned away or denied.
At one point during the organizations' rescue mission, volunteers attempted to take the residents to the Lake Charles airport to later be transported by bus to safety. When the group arrived, they were turned away and told the bus wasn't available.
According to the detailed report, the residents were told at least three separate times that a bus would arrive prior to the storm to transport them to safety.
One bus did arrive at the facility and picked up half of the residents but never returned, 4WWL reported.
"The bus did come...picked up half of the people and said they would be back and they never came back," said James Lea, a volunteer with Aerobridge.
The residents were living in 100-degree weather without medication, water, food or electricity. There were also reports of residents living with dirty adult diapers, hungry and in need of immediate medical attention.
The non-profit agency said multiple agencies including the National Guard, Lake Charles Fire and FEMA USAR teams arrived on the site of the nursing home but refused to take action, stating the facility was not in their jurisdiction.
With the assistance of CSR and Aerobridge, on Aug. 30, the residents were eventually taken to a FEMA facility in Metairie for evacuees. Volunteers were fearful some of them wouldn't survive overnight and decided to drive the residents themselves.
Four residents received hotel vouchers while the remaining residents were recommended for medical shelter in Gonzales.
While it is unclear what the racial makeup was of the residents, the city of Lake Charles is 48.5% Black, according to the United States Census Bureau.
CSR is now calling for a full investigation into the responsible parties who failed to render immediate aid to the residents despite agencies being aware of the facility. They have also contacted Disability LA and the Adult Protective Services of LA to notify them of the circumstances.
Of the many unanswered questions, Lea wants to know how could the seniors be left behind and forgotten.
"I do question -- highly question -- the decision of the management of that place to leave before knowing that all of their residents were taken care of," he said.
In addition to Golden Arms, the agency reported two additional facilities were abandoned with residents who were left to be rescued by volunteers.