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LA County Votes SNF Inspector General to Oversee Patient Safety

By Senior housingNo Comments

The inspector general will increase SNF oversight, ideally identifying the patient safety and experience factors leading to large scale COVID-19 deaths.


 – Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to appoint an inspector general to oversee skilled nursing facilities in an attempt to track the patient safety and satisfaction pitfalls that may have laid the groundwork for the COVID-19 crisis in these care sites.

The motion, set forward by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Board Chair Kathryn Barger, acknowledges that nearly half of all COVID-19 deaths have occurred in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). Individual SNFs are not wholly to blame, Ridley-Thomas and Barger acknowledged. Instead, the lack of oversight driving quality healthcare has led to an environment in which an infectious disease like COVID-19 may spread uncontrollably.

“While some skilled nursing homes may be doing their best to respond to COVID-19, we’ve seen hundreds of deaths at these facilities, tragically exposing the urgent need for stronger oversight across the industry,” Ridley-Thomas said in a statement.

“Now, more than ever, we must act to address any questionable operations and substandard conditions in the facilities that care for some of our most vulnerable residents – the elderly, the low-income, and the disabled.”

Care quality and patient safety issues in SNFs have been exacerbated in LA County, which has seen 5,218 SNF residents and 3,140 staff members test positive for the disease.

And these trends are worse among populations of color. Separate data shows that SNFs that treat a larger population of Latinx and black patients are twice as likely to be hit by COVID-19 than those that predominantly treat white patients. This is a pressing issue in LA County, which is home to large Latinx and black populations.

“Skilled nursing facilities provide critical care and support for many of our most vulnerable populations,” Supervisor Barger added. “As the County fights the COVID-19 public health crisis, we must greatly improve our ability to assess and oversee these facilities to ensure the safety and well-being of all those who have been entrusted to their care.”

The LA County inspector general for SNFs will specifically look at how to strengthen SNF oversight. Additionally, the inspector general will look into long-term improvement strategies.

This comes as part of LA County’s efforts to learn from the challenges ensued during the novel coronavirus pandemic. As noted above, about 53 percent of LA County’s COVID-19 fatalities occurred in medical institutions like SNFs, and the area’s medical leaders want to work to preventing future crises.

To that end, the inspector general will look at the internal and external factors that hampered SNF efforts to address the pandemic, look at what may contributed to oft-inadequate SNF conditions, and provide oversight and resources for improvement.

The inspector general will also be in charge of improving regulatory requirements that improve care at the state and local level. Ultimately, this is set to improve care quality, reduce infection rates, and support the staff members who work in SNFs.

“It is our collective responsibility to protect and support the most vulnerable among us,” said Christina Ghaly, MD, the director of the LA County Department of Health Services. “Prioritizing the health and safety of those in our County’s skilled nursing facilities is the right thing to do and will also help protect the availability of hospital resources for all those who need them.”

In a separate push for transparency, the LA County Board of Supervisors also tapped the Auditor-Controller to design a COVID-19 dashboard. The dashboard, which Ridley-Thomas and Barger’s motion states must be publicly available, should include data about COVID-19 caseloads, testing frequency, mitigation plan status, and other not-yet defined data.

The motion also works to assess the quality of mitigation plans and define an oversight process for these plans.

Elder Abuse Growing into a National Crisis

By Predation and Abuse of SeniorsNo Comments

Do you know what America’s “dirty little secret“ is? The hidden problem of elder abuse, according to the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL). Here’s what you should know about this serious social problem.

Elder abuse isn’t a new phenomenon.

But awareness of the problem is relatively new. One of the first public reports on elder abuse was published in a 1975 British Medical Journal paper, which described the occurrence of “granny battering” or “granny bashing.”

By the mid-1970s, America had awakened to reports and articles on battered and abandoned elders that were documented in professional literature. The initial response to these reports was disbelief and denial, which turned into public outrage as soon as elder abuse stories hit the mainstream media.

Elder laws and definitions can vary widely.

Each state has created statutory laws that address elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. These statutes can differ greatly.

Defining elder abuse would seem straightforward, but it’s not. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) states that definitions vary, the problem is mostly concealed, and what actions or inactions constitute abuse are hard to pin down.

In broad terms, elder abuse can be defined as “any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.”

Elder abuse is a complex problem.

The NCEA provides general categories of elder abuse. Domestic elder abuse is mistreatment toward an elder by a person in a trust relationship with him or her in a home setting, whereas institutional elder abuse is committed by a person who has a legal or contractual obligation to him or her in a residential setting.

Seven types of elder abuse are physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, neglect, abandonment, financial and material exploitation and self-neglect.

America’s growing elderly population is a contributing factor.

The older population is expected to rapidly grow between 2010 and 2050. U.S. Census Bureau data show that the number of seniors aged 65 and over will double, from 44.7 million in 2013 to 88.5 million in 2050. With the projected growth in the elderly population, the prevalence and incidence of elder abuse will likely increase.

Elder neglect is the most common type of abuse.

In a domestic setting, neglect is the most common type of abuse (55%), followed by physical abuse (14.6%), financial and material exploitation (12.3 percent), emotional abuse (7.7 %), sexual abuse (less than 1 percent), and other types of abuse (6.1 percent), as reported by the NCEA.

The extent of the elder abuse problem is largely unknown.

No one knows how many older Americans are victims of elder abuse. A conservative estimate says that every year about 2.1 million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

For every one elder abuse case reported to the authorities, roughly five go unreported, according to NCEA prevalence data.

The number one risk factor for elder abuse is vulnerability.

Vulnerable older people are susceptible to the abusive behaviors of people who hold negative views toward elders.

Other risk factors for elder abuse and neglect include dementia and cognitive impairment, transgenerational violence, personal and financial problems of the abuser, and environmental conditions.

Elder abuse is usually perpetrated by someone the victim knows and trusts.

Family members were the perpetrators in about 90% of cases of domestic elder abuse and neglect, according to The National Elder Abuse Incidence Study.

Adult children are most often the perpetrators of elder abuse, followed by other family members and spouses, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Forty-two percent of murder victims over 60 were killed by their offspring, while 24 percent were killed by their spouses, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report.

Elder financial abuse can be just as devastating as other forms of abuse.

The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse revealed that older victims of financial exploitation lose about $2.9 billion annually.

The same study found that women were twice as likely to be victims of elder financial abuse, as compared to men. Most victims were aged 80 to 89, lived alone, and depended on others for medical or financial assistance.

Gender matters in the calculus of elder abuse.

Women are at greater risk to become an elder abuse victim during their lifetime, according to The National Elder Abuse Incidence Study.

Study results also found that women were the victims in 76.3% of cases of emotional or psychological abuse, 71.4 of physical abuse, 63% of financial/material exploitation, and 60% of neglect. Men were the majority of victims (62.2%) of abandonment.

Community-based organizations are available to assist victims and their families.

Should you suspect that a family member or a relative is being neglected, abused, or exploited, your first call should be made to Adult Protective Services (APS).

Other state resources to go for help include Area Agencies on Aging, Long-Term Care Ombudsman, law enforcement, legal services, and domestic violence programs.

Preventing and combating elder abuse is everyone’s responsibility. We can all do our part to create healthy and safe community environments for our elderly loved ones, relatives, neighbors, and friends.

‘I don’t know about normal love’: A church leader’s abuse and a woman’s years-long struggle

By Predation and Abuse of SeniorsNo Comments

Lauren Griffis is photographed in Nokesville, Va. (Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)


Lauren Griffis says she was groomed by a Virginia church youth leader from the time she was 11. The man crept into her life, forging bonds with her family before prosecutors say he sexually abused her multiple times at age 16.

Justice was swift. Two weeks after the physical relationship began, Lauren’s mother called police. The man was arrested in 2016, serving a year in jail for taking indecent liberties with a child as church leaders struggled to respond to a crisis in their congregation.

With a rise in clergy abuse cases coming to light in the #MeToo era, some church leaders are becoming transparent with congregants, rather than sweeping allegations under the rug. More than a dozen investigations of the Catholic Church were announced last year in the United States, with other scandals among Southern Baptists and evangelical churches.

Experts broadly agree on best practices for church leaders to come forward in abuse cases, but a lack of data and the historical underreporting of sex abuse in the church can make it difficult to know how to address it.

“This issue should never be behind us,” said Boz Tchividjian, executive director of the nonprofit Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. “It should always be on our radar screen.”

Tchividjian, a former child abuse prosecutor and grandson of famed evangelist Billy Graham, founded GRACE to help churches respond to allegations of sexual abuse and prevent it from happening again. He describes fighting abuse as a “cultural transformation” in churches that could take generations.

The first steps to take when abuse is suspected or reported are clear, experts say: Church leaders should contact law enforcement rather than rely on internal investigations. Accused people should step down from positions of power. Despite Christian dogma to the contrary, victims and perpetrators shouldn’t necessarily reconcile, or be encouraged to.

Responsibility for handling abuse cases extends beyond church leadership. Experts say congregants should be prepared to support victims during a reconciliation process that might not have a tidy ending. They might also need training in how to prevent or report sexual abuse.

“Churches want an easy way out — watch an online video, take a quiz and, boom, you’re a safer church,” Tchividjian said. “That’s a false narrative.”

In 2010, the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe found himself looking for a way through one such scandal that some thought he never should have taken responsibility for.

Rowe, who is now the bishop of the Episcopal dioceses of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York, encouraged survivors to come forward with stories about his predecessor, who had abused girls as young as 10 over more than 20 years. Rowe said he was criticized for acknowledging the allegations, for which his diocese took hits to its reputation and its pocketbook.

The diocese repented and tried to do right by its victims, he said — while for those directly affected, it could never do enough. Rather than move past the scandal, he said it is “now an important part of who we are.”

“It can’t be the focus of our life and ministry,” he said, “but we must keep it in front of us.”

Greenwich Presbyterian Church in Nokesville, Va. (Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)

In Lauren’s case, her abuser was swiftly caught and convicted as her struggle with PTSD began. She reached a settlement with her Virginia church, but feels abandoned by a faith community she once felt part of.

“Every single thing in life comes back to Derrick,” said Lauren, 20. “I don’t know about normal love. . . . It’s just ruined everything for me.”

Derrick Ryan Trump came to Greenwich Presbyterian Church near Nokesville, Va., in 2010 and was named director of youth ministries. Then in his early 20s, Trump planned Sunday school classes, youth group meetings and mission trips. He often taught a church training course on sexual harassment, according to documents filed in Fauquier County General District Court in Virginia.

Trump, who didn’t respond to requests for comment, came to Greenwich at a difficult time in Lauren’s life. Her parents had recently separated.

“With my dad gone, I was left very vulnerable,” Lauren said. “I started talking to Derrick. Once a month, I’d meet him in his office. He slowly became a huge part of my life.”

In court documents, prosecutors said Trump kissed Lauren for the first time on May 17, 2016, at his Fauquier County home. That night on the phone, they discussed sex. Trump was 28. Lauren, 16.

The next day, Trump picked Lauren up at Panera Bread. He drove her to his house and sexually abused her, prosecutors said. Afterward, he dropped her off at Panera, where her mother picked her up. They attended church with the youth group that night “like nothing had happened,” according to court filings.

“Before they had sex, they discussed that what they were doing was wrong,” prosecutors wrote. “The defendant stated that he was willing to face the consequences for his actions.”

The secret didn’t last long. Within two weeks, the physical contact was over. Trump told Lauren he had “a sex addiction,” according to court documents; he told his wife and Lauren’s mother, Cherie, about their contact on May 27, 2016. Cherie was appalled and contacted police.

“I was in shock,” Cherie said. “It was like I was not even in my body.”

Trump was fired from the church. He faced criminal charges of taking indecent liberties with a child by a person in a custodial or supervisory relationship in Fauquier County, where he lived, and Prince William County, the location of the church. His home was searched, and bedsheets were taken as evidence. He was assigned a risk score indicating he was a lower-level sex offender, and in November 2016, he pleaded guilty to taking indecent liberties with a child.

Trump’s attorney, Nadir N. Tawil, said it “looked like love” to his client, adding that Trump confessed to the crimes and apologized to Lauren and the church. “This destroyed him,” Tawil said.

In January, Lauren’s older sister filed a police report claiming Trump sexually assaulted her in 2014, two years before his arrest in Lauren’s case. Prosecutors declined to bring charges, saying the statute of limitations had passed.

At Greenwich Presbyterian Church and in the Griffis home, a cycle of anger, recriminations, denial and healing was about to begin.

‘We were being shunned’

Lauren Griffis and her mother, Cherie Griffis. (Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)

The family never returned to services. Lauren was discouraged from going on a mission trip, she said. As the Griffis family tells it, some church peers stopped speaking to her, unfriended her on Facebook and told her that she “ruined” the youth group.

“It was clear we were being shunned,” Cherie said.

Lauren said she felt compelled to speak out, worried the congregation might think of her as the “other woman” in a “love story” with a married man when she was the victim of a sex crime that resulted from failures in Greenwich’s leadership.

The church didn’t respond to specific claims the Griffis family made, but said in a statement that Greenwich “remains attentive to the profound impact that our former youth director’s sexual abuse has had upon Lauren.”

The statement continued: “As Lauren tells her story, we pray it will deepen her own healing journey and that her courage will help other victims of sexual abuse find hope and strength. From the beginning of this sad ordeal we have expressed transparency and confidentiality. Out of respect for Lauren and her family, we remain circumspect in offering public statements. We continue to stand with Lauren and all survivors of sexual abuse, and pray for the end of this scourge upon the broader church and society.”

As Trump’s case wound through the legal system, Lauren attended Camp Cadi, a week-long summer camp for young survivors of sexual abuse, in Dallas, Ga.

Amy Barth, a therapist and sexual abuse survivor who founded the camp in 2005, said the focus is on giving girls “ the childhood they lost at the time of the abuse.” Mornings are devoted to therapy, and afternoons are like “regular camp,” she said.

“It’s harder to heal when you’re older,” she said. “The more skills we give them — coping skills, the knowledge that other girls experience the same things — we get them grounded, and it’s less likely they will have the same level of PTSD.”

Lauren said she left the camp with “a very different mind-set.”

“I am realizing everything that happened to me and everything that church did and didn’t do to protect me,” she said. “I said, ‘I want to hire a lawyer.’ ”

She called Pennsylvania attorney Nate Foote, who represents crime victims, including survivors of sexual assault.

Lauren’s case caught his eye because he is originally from nearby Manassas, he said. He also thought the case was viable: Greenwich was an institutional defendant, and Trump an admitted abuser.

Lauren Griffis and her therapy dog, Paddington. (Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)


Lauren said she had asked for $350,000 and a public apology. She got a private apology and $40,000, after costs and fees. She got a new car. She got Paddington, her PTSD dog, who cost $2,000 and an additional $3,000 to train.

Soon, the money was gone and Trump was out of jail, living a few miles away. Without her old church and her friends, Lauren had to find her own way forward.

‘Preach it on a Sunday’

After Trump’s arrest, the Griffis family expected to return to friends, family and their church community. It didn’t feel that way.

“Very few people have spoken to me over the past couple of years, but when they have, it has been nothing but disrespect, re-victimizing, shaming, concern for Trump or asking why I’ve acted the way I have,” Lauren wrote in an email. “None of them protected me, and what’s worse is, no one supported me after it happened.”

Don Meeks, Greenwich’s pastor, grappled with whether Lauren should address the Greenwich community about her abuse. Trump had abused Lauren on his watch.

“None of us knew what we were looking at,” he told Lauren and her mother as they sat across from him at a Virginia Starbucks. During the meeting, which was attended by a Washington Post reporter, he called the abuse “part of a broken world we live in.”

Lauren invited The Post to the meeting, saying she wanted a reporter to witness Meeks’s atonement.

After the lawsuit, he was the one who privately apologized to Lauren for the abuse she suffered at the church. This was a new era, he said — a “#MeToo, #ChurchToo” era in which allegations against powerful men had raised awareness about sexual assault.

“I’m paddling as fast as I can to catch up,” he told Lauren. “You’re feeling you are silenced. That was never my intention. I’m in a tight spot as a leader. . . . I’m not asking for your sympathy; I’m asking for your understanding.”

Lauren thought she should come to church and tell her story.

“I’d love you to preach it on a Sunday morning,” she told Meeks.

During the meeting with Meeks, Lauren said church parishioners “look at me like I’m the other woman. I need some way to express my side of the story.”

Greenwich Presbyterian Church in Nokesville, Va. (Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)

Meeks said the story was alive at Greenwich. Policies had been reviewed. He was meeting with church elders to discuss it. He needed time to educate others as she was educating him.

“My commitment from the beginning has to be — and this is not to get in front of the story — is to tell the truth,” he said.

Before Meeks left the coffee shop, he told Lauren and Cherie the conversation would continue, if they wanted it to. Lauren and Cherie haven’t been back to church, a place Lauren says triggers symptoms of PTSD after her experiences.

“If you never want to talk to me again, I get that,” Meeks said.

Breaking years of silence

The Rev. Ashley Easter, grandchild of two pastors of a Baptist church, said she knows what it’s like to leave a church behind. She was taught that “women were to be in submission” and said she was sexually harassed by a Christian author as a teenager.

“It wasn’t until I was 21 — when I was introduced to equality for women from a biblical perspective — that it helped me break free from this toxic patriarchal ideology, to come to grips with the ways the patriarchy influenced abuse I experienced,” she said.

Now ordained through the Progressive Christian Alliance, a network of liberal Christians founded in 2008, Easter is the founder of an annual conference for sexual abuse survivors. Abuse should be a regular sermon topic, she said, noting that one-third of women and one-sixth of men experience abuse.

“It should be a normal part of church,” she said. “I think an ongoing conversation is something every church should have whether or not they had a big scandal. We talk about missions all the time. There’s no reason we can’t talk about people who have been hurt.”

Christa Brown , a survivor of sexual abuse who has written about sex crimes in Baptist churches, said those abused in faith communities face “an extra dimension of spiritual harm.” Prosecution is rare, and even when perpetrators go to prison or churches offer recompense, it might not help victims, Brown said.

“It’s a soul-murdering kind of offense,” she said.

Lauren has jobs as a dance teacher and an assistant for a real estate agent, but “triggers are everywhere,” she said. She’s working toward a bachelor’s degree online, uncomfortable with communicating with professors in person. She rarely goes anywhere without Paddington, and she doesn’t sleep much. She can’t have an intimate relationship, she said.

Even prayer makes her think of Trump.

“She’s not comfortable with prayer,” Cherie said. “Derrick ruined it for her.”

Her PTSD can be a problem at work, at school — in any situation involving physical contact or involving a man. It doesn’t help that her abuser shares a surname with the president of the United States.

She can imagine a time when she can advocate on behalf of victims of sexual assault. The legal system dealt with Trump while keeping her an anonymous victim. Church members dismissed and excluded her, she said, and wouldn’t listen to her or her family.

“I wanted my voice to be heard,” Lauren said. “Everyone got a voice. I did not.”

Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.

Financial Abuse of the Elderly: Sometimes Unnoticed, Always Predatory

By Predation and Abuse of SeniorsNo Comments

Mariana Cooper, 86,with her granddaughter, Amy Lecoq, 39. Ms. Cooper was bilked out of much of her savings by someone she considered a friend.


It was only after Mariana Cooper, a widow in Seattle, found herself with strained finances that she confessed to her granddaughter that she was afraid she had been bilked out of much of her savings.

Over three years, Ms. Cooper, 86, had written at least a dozen checks totaling more than $217,000 to someone she considered a friend and confidante. But the money was never paid back or used on her behalf, according to court documents, and in early November the woman who took advantage of Ms. Cooper, Janet Bauml, was convicted on nine counts of felony theft. (She faces sentencing on Dec. 11.)

Ms. Cooper, who lost her home and now lives in a retirement community, is one of an estimated five million older American residents annually who are victimized to some extent by a caregiver, friend, family member, lawyer or financial adviser.

With 10,000 people turning 65 every day for the next decade, a growing pool of retirees are susceptible to such exploitation. As many as one in 20 older adults said they were financially mistreated in the recent past, according to a study financed by the Justice Department.

Traditionally, such exploitation, whether by family, friends or acquaintances, often has been minimized as a private matter, and either dismissed with little or no penalty or handled in civil court.

Even when the sums are large, cases like Ms. Cooper’s are often difficult to prosecute because of their legal complexity and because the exploitation goes unnoticed or continues for long periods. Money seeps out of savings and retirement funds so slowly it draws attention only after it is too late.

Ms. Cooper, for example, wrote her first check, for $3,000, in early 2008, and later gave Ms. Bauml her power of attorney. In early 2012, after Ms. Cooper realized that Ms. Bauml was not going to repay her in time for her to afford a new roof for her house, she told her granddaughter, Amy A. Lecoq, about the checks. She later called the police.

Ms. Bauml maintained that Ms. Cooper gave her money for services she provided as a home organizer or as loans.

Later, testing by a geriatric mental health specialist found that Ms. Cooper had moderate dementia, which showed her judgment had been impaired.

The diagnosis “helped the jury to understand why she would keep signing all these checks to this woman as loans when she was never being paid back,” said Page B. Ulrey, senior deputy prosecutor for King County, Wash., who pressed the case against Ms. Bauml.

The case was challenging in part because Washington State does not have an elder abuse statute, said Ms. Ulrey, who is one of a small but growing number of prosecutors around the country with the specific duty of prosecuting those who take financial advantage of elders, whether it is connected to investments, contracts or other fraud.

As the number of complaints grows, more municipalities are trying to combat such abuse, which is often intertwined with physical or sexual abuse, and emotional neglect.

Some organizations also have set up shelters, modeled on those for victims of domestic abuse. In the Bronx, for example, the Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home in Riverdale started such a shelter in 2005. Since then, 14 other such shelters have been opened in various long-term care operations around the country to deal with urgent cases of financial abuse.

One such woman, who agreed to talk only if she was not identified by her last name, stayed at Riverdale after she was threatened with eviction. A neighbor discovered that the woman, a 73-year-old widow named Irene, had not paid her rent in six months because relatives living with her had been withdrawing money from her account and leaving her short of funds.

“I had to leave with one small suitcase,” Irene said. “They were abusing me.”

She was later able to move to federally subsidized housing away from the abusive situation.

Scammers using pandemic to target elderly during the pandemic | COMMENTARY

By Predation and Abuse of SeniorsNo Comments

Known as the “silent crime of the 21st Century,” elder financial abuse is an increasingly complex problem. Every year, thousands of cases of financial exploitation of older and vulnerable adults are reported in Maryland alone, and only about one in 44 cases is ever reported to authorities, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association.

What’s worse: Every day, criminals become more sophisticated in their efforts to fleece seniors of their hard-earned money. The average victim of elder financial abuse loses upward of $120,000.

In many ways, the COVID-19 health crisis has created a “perfect storm” for swindling. Consumers in the U.S. have lost millions to coronavirus-related fraud this year, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network. And Maryland ranks among the states with the most fraud reported relating to the pandemic, according to a new Expert Insurance Reviews study. Since January, Marylanders have filed more than a thousand fraud reports to the Federal Trade Commission.

This trend suggests scammers are seeking to exploit the fears and uncertainty triggered by the pandemic. While anyone can be an easy target if not prepared, predators are pouncing at the opportunity to take advantage of “high risk” seniors who are preoccupied with avoiding the potentially deadly virus.

Although the reason behind their fraud is new, their tactics are familiar. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch scam coronavirus treatments while others employ fake emails or text messages to steal valuable personal information, under the guise of contact tracing. Some are using this major health event to create fake charities that take advantage of the generosity of older adults who may be looking for ways to financially support those affected by the pandemic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also warned about an increasing number of nonsense scams related to vaccines and test kits for COVID-19.

Because social distancing and quarantine have limited the opportunities for older adults to interact with their support systems, caregivers, and communities, it can be even harder to prevent falling prey to these scams or know that they may be happening to someone you love.

We must work together to protect our greatest generation and provide them with the tools necessary to stop these nefarious crooks in their tracks. This month, we’re asking you to join us in helping to protect older Marylanders from financial fraud and abuse.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, observed Monday, will kick off Maryland’s annual PROTECT Week (Protecting Older Americans from Financial Exploitation), held June 15-21, and will bring older adults, their families, and caregivers opportunities to learn about the under-reported, shameful and often preventable crime of elder financial abuse and exploitation.

Financial exploitation occurs when a person misuses or takes the assets of a vulnerable adult to benefit themselves. This frequently occurs without the explicit knowledge or consent of an older or vulnerable adult, depriving the victim of vital financial resources.

Providing families and caregivers with resources to recognize the signs of abuse and know whom to contact in case of suspicious activity is key to preventing this fraud. The PROTECT Week website ( provides a free content hub of interviews, articles and other resources for consumers focused on preventing and protecting against the financial exploitation of older Americans.

The weeklong campaign — now in its third year — is led by CCCSMD (Consumer Credit Counseling Services Maryland) in partnership with AARP Maryland, and made possible by a collaboration of public and private partners who share a common goal of preventing and remedying financial exploitation of older Marylanders, including the Maryland Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation, Maryland Department of Aging, Maryland Department of Human Services, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, EverSafe, ElderSAFE, CHANA Baltimore, Baltimore County Restoring Elder Safety Today — BC REST Coalition, and Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition.

If you or someone you know are targeted by a scam, call the Department of Justice National Elder Fraud Hotline at (833) 372-8311. AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams with its free “watchdog alerts,” scam-tracking map, and toll-free fraud helpline at (877) 908-3360. The Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Protection Division also offers a hotline, (410) 528-8662.

Robert Hur ( is U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland; Brian Frosh ( is Maryland Attorney General and Peter Franchot ( is Maryland Comptroller. Helene Raynaud (, president of CCCSMD, and Hank Greenberg (, the Maryland State Director for AARP, also contributed.

93-Year-Old Woman Spends 2 Nights In Jail After Eviction From Senior Housing

By Senior EvictionsNo Comments

Florida authorities released an elderly woman from jail on Thursday after police arrested her when she allegedly refused to leave her home in a senior housing community after being evicted.

Juanita Fitzgerald spent her 94th birthday Friday in a motel room, The Orlando Sentinel reported. The day before, she had been released from Florida’s Lake County Jail, which is where police took her after she was evicted from her home at the National Church Residences’ Franklin House in Eustis. The facility accused her of refusing to leave.

Clad in an orange jumpsuit, Fitzgerald told WFTV reporters earlier this week that she did not understand why she was being evicted. She had lived there since 2011.

Bodycam footage from the arrest showed her screaming and sliding to the ground in an apparent attempt to avoid being taken away. A police report obtained by The Miami Herald noted that Fitzgerald had told officers, “Unless you carry me out of here, I’m not going anywhere.”

Franklin House spokeswoman Karen Twinem told the Sentinel that Fitzgerald was evicted “based on her refusal to pay rent” and that the complex had been trying to work with Fitzgerald “for months” to “get her to agree to get more help so she could live in a situation that was more suitable.”

Fitzgerald countered that she had previously attempted to pay rent that the facility rejected, though Twinem has said Fitzgerald only presented a partial rent payment.

The police report stated that Fitzgerald was transported to jail without handcuffs because of her age. However, she can be seen wearing handcuffs and ankle restraints at the jail in an on-camera interview with WCMH-TV. Her wrists and forearms appear deeply bruised.

After her release, she showed the Sentinel bruises and scratches on her ankles that she said were from the prison shackles. A jail spokeswoman told the site that it was typical for inmates to wear restraints, but could not confirm anything specifically about Fitzgerald’s situation.

Fitzgerald was released from jail on her own recognizance on Thursday. Since then, she’s been meeting with the Mid Florida Homeless Coalition to find permanent housing.

This story has been updated to note that Fitzgerald can be seen on camera wearing restraints at the jail.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Fitzgerald was arrested for allegedly refusing to pay rent. She was arrested for allegedly refusing to leave her home when she was evicted.

Coronavirus Hasn’t Stopped Jared Kushner’s Real Estate Empire from Hounding Tenants with Debt Collection, Eviction Lawsuits

By Senior EvictionsNo Comments

JARED KUSHNER’S family real estate company, which owns and manages thousands of apartment units, continued its aggressive eviction practices and debt collection lawsuits as Americans wait for government relief. Well into the coronavirus crisis, which has led to skyrocketing unemployment, court records show properties owned by Kushner Companies are still filing new eviction lawsuits.

At least 15 tenants in New Jersey and Maryland have been on the receiving end of lawsuits from Kushner-owned properties even after both states declared states of emergency. Govs. Phil Murphy, D-N.J., and Larry Hogan, R-Md., have both called for a moratorium on evictions and courts have been closed, postponing hearing dates for a range of debt collection-related activities.

The Maryland and New Jersey moratoriums on evictions, however, do not prevent debt collectors from filing new lawsuits.

On March 25, Westminster Management, a unit of Kushner Companies, filed a lawsuit requesting sheriff services to enforce an eviction against a man residing at the company’s Harbor Point Estate apartment in Essex, Maryland. Days later, on March 30, Kushner’s company filed a collection lawsuit against another man in the same complex.

The previous week, on March 19, Oxford Arms, a Kushner-owned apartment complex in Edison, New Jersey, filed six lawsuits against tenants. Other lawsuits have been filed in recent weeks against tenants by legal entities tied to the Whispering Woods complex in Middle River, Maryland; the Cove Village complex in Essex, Maryland; and the Pier Village building in Long Branch, New Jersey — all of which are owned by Kushner.

Experts say the continued collection filings and letters threatening financial penalties in the near future could cause undue stress during a period in which Americans are already reeling from the trauma of mass layoffs, social isolation, and health care issues fueled by the pandemic.

“Not being able to sleep, eat, stress with the marriage, and stress with the family is typical for somebody being hounded by a debt collector,” said Peter Holland, a consumer rights attorney based in Annapolis, Maryland, “and I can only imagine it’s even more typical now.”

Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, serves as a senior adviser at the White House. His role in the Covid-19 response effort has come under fire in recent days after the promise of a nationwide network of drive-through testing sites never materialized. Kushner also tapped his brother Joshua to build a federal response website promised by Trump, which was ultimately scrapped.

Kushner, whose estimated net worth is around $800 million, has said in the past that he has stepped away from day-to-day management of the real estate firm, though he has not relinquished his ownership stake. Ethics disclosures show that he still receives millions of dollars a year in income from rent collected by his assorted real estate portfolio, including the chain of apartment buildings.

Kushner Companies, as well as New Jersey and Maryland attorneys representing Kushner’s real estate subsidiaries, did not respond to requests for comment.

“We’re doing all we can for tenants. I’m not answering any questions, OK?” said a staff member at one Kushner-owned apartment complex in Baltimore County.

Kushner Companies owns a vast array of commercial and residential real estate units around the country. The firm, founded by Kushner’s father, has come under fire for predatory business practices. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, in a lawsuit filed last year, accused the company of failing to address rodent infestations while forcing tenants to pay illegitimate fees.

The real estate firm’s debt collection practices, which involve hundreds of lawsuits pursuing tenants often for small amounts of debt, have been detailed in reporting in ProPublica and the Baltimore Sun. In the past, Kushner’s attorneys have gone so far as to pursue civil arrest warrants for at least 105 tenants over unpaid fees and rent.

Last month, Netflix released “Slumlord Millionaire,” a mini-documentary about the abusive practices of Kushner’s real estate companies. The feature describes Kushner as a “tier one predator,” who has used harassment tactics to drive tenants out of rent-stabilized apartments in New York, while systematically imposing hefty fees on tenants in Maryland. The feature shows tenants dealing with debt collection letters, eviction notices, water damage, mold, fire code violations, and shoddy maintenance.

The court docket of March cases in New Jersey and Maryland list a variety of eviction and landlord-initiated collection lawsuits. Some of the filings do not list the underlying reason for the case. New Jersey law, for instance, allows eviction lawsuits over unpaid rent, drug conviction, or a violation of the terms of the lease agreement.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Kushner Companies is pivoting to suburban markets without rent control laws. After offloading 666 Fifth Avenue, a New York commercial real estate building in Manhattan plagued by vacancies and soaring debt in 2018, the firm increased its low- and middle-income housing portfolio. Last year, the company spent over $1 billion to purchase 6,000 suburban apartment units in Maryland and Virginia from Lone Star Funds, a Texas private equity fund. The acquisition was funded in part by Freddie Mac, the government mortgage provider.

Laurent Morali, president of Kushner Companies, has said that the new multifamily apartment building units will drive growth because rent can be increased by about 3 percent annually.

The Kushner real estate interests, responsible for the family’s vast wealth, have notably benefitted widely from government largesse. The Baltimore Sun found that three Maryland apartment complexes owned by the family have received $6.1 million in federal rent subsidies from 2015 through 2017.

The bailout could be an even bigger boon for the business. Under the new CARES Act, mortgage payments for low- and middle-income housing developments may be suspended in exchange for freezing evictions on those who cannot afford rent. The law applies to units purchased with government-backed mortgages, which may apply to the apartment units purchased through Freddie Mac last year, as well as another tranche of apartment units purchased by Kushner in 2012. It’s not clear whether Kushner meets the statutory threshold to qualify, and his company has not responded to reporters’ questions on the issue.

California senior citizen fighting her eviction passes away at 97

By Senior EvictionsNo Comments

Senior fighting to save her home passes away

Weeks ago, 97-year-old Marie Hatch received an eviction notice, informing her she had to leave the suburban San Francisco house where she had lived for the past 66 years.

Friends and neighbors — and a high-powered law firm — became her advocates, and her plight received national media attention. Efforts were underway to stop Hatch’s eviction when she was sickened by a respiratory virus.

After a brief hospitalization, Hatch died at home Thursday night, one of her attorneys confirmed to The Washington Post.

Hatch, who was battling cancer and had agoraphobia, died from apparent natural causes after a severe cold, family friends told the San Francisco Chronicle.

“It’s so sad — we will miss Marie,” Hatch’s next-door neighbor Cheryl Graczewski told the Chronicle. “She was a real sweetheart. There was a lot of spirit in that woman.”

Hatch, a retired bakery worker, had lived in the two-bedroom cottage in Burlingame for decades with her roommate, 85-year-old Georgia Rothrock. The notice came on Feb. 11 to move within 60 days or face eviction by sheriff’s deputies from the $1.2 million home in a Northern California neighborhood where property values and rents have skyrocketed.

“They’re trying to take away everything from me here,” Hatch told the Chronicle last month. “Gee whiz, I don’t know what I’ll do if I have to leave.”

She added: “I have a lot of tears, a lot of happiness, a lot of memories in this house. It is my home. Where can I go?”

— Elahe Izadi

Student charged with posting teacher’s photo

Authorities say a high school student who went through his teacher’s cellphone, found a nude picture of her and posted it online has been charged with a computer crime and voyeurism.

Chief Sam White of the Public Safety Department in northwestern South Carolina said the 16-year-old was taken into custody Friday at Union High School.

The boy, charged as a juvenile, is being held for a hearing in family court. The teacher has said she had made a nude selfie to share with her husband. She has quit her job teaching at the school.

— Associated Press

Brown autopsy shows recent use of cocaine

Bobbi Kristina Brown’s autopsy shows evidence of recent cocaine use by the daughter of Whitney Houston before she was found unresponsive in a bathtub in her Atlanta home last year, but a medical examiner’s office said Friday it could not establish whether her death after months in a coma was accidental or intentional.

The 22-year-old Brown, the only child from Houston’s marriage to fellow Grammy-award-winning singer Bobby Brown, suffered brain damage and died of pneumonia resulting from drug intoxication and her face being immersed in water, the Fulton County medical examiner said.

— Reuters

She’s 91 and Is Being Kicked Out of Her Apartment

By Senior EvictionsNo Comments

Dozens of residents of an independent living community in Manhattan — some as old as 99 — are being forced out of the homes they thought they’d die in.

Gabrielle Wagner, 91, moved into the Riverview Senior Independent Living facility last April after her identical twin, whom she had lived with, died in 2018. She had been lonely and the modern apartment tower in Hell’s Kitchen felt less like assisted living and more like a comfortable community for active seniors where she could live out her days.

“I thought I’d go out feet first,” she said just before Christmas. “I thought I’d finally found a place I can stay in until I die.”

Muriel Fisher, 86, left her $811-a-month, rent-controlled, two-bedroom apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens, to move in to a studio at the Riverview in 2018. Her grandson, who lives on the same Manhattan block as the center, insisted it was no longer safe for her to be alone.

Milton Gluck, also 86, moved in three months ago to be closer to his son, after his partner of 30 years entered a nursing home. He hasn’t yet fully unpacked.

Then, on Dec. 3, the building’s management distributed a surprise letter to all the residents. Riverview was being sold, it said, “sometime in the first few months of 2020.” Everyone would have to leave.

The nonprofit that owns the building said the center, which opened less than two years ago, had been losing money and it could no longer afford to run it. The group was seeking a market-rate buyer.

The news sent the 31 residents of Riverview — who are nearly all in their 70s, 80s and 90s — into a panic, unsure of where they would go.

New York City is in the grips of an affordable housing crunch for seniors — the latest data shows an estimated 200,000 low-income seniors were on waiting lists for federally subsidized housing in 2016 citywide — and middle-income seniors are also struggling to find homes that fit their needs.

At the high end, there are luxury independent living options in Manhattan like the Atria on West 86th Street, where fees soar to over $11,000 a month for a one-bedroom, and the Inspir, an even more expensive option opening on the Upper East Side.

For older New Yorkers in the middle — even those who can afford Riverview’s rates of about $4,000 a month for a small apartment, three meals a day, housekeeping and some social events — the options are limited. And when you’re a nonagenarian looking for what may be your last home, it’s not just about finding an open spot.

The EastView, a new independent living facility that the Salvation Army just opened in Harlem, has space, but many residents felt it was too far from their families. The West 74th Street Residence, which has interviewed several Riverview residents, was less expensive, but had less charm, some said.

Nothing felt like the Riverview, a 14-story building at 49th Street and 10th Avenue in the heart of Midtown. Several residents described falling in love with its hotel-like hallways, modern finishes and Hudson River views. So its residents, many using pensions from careers as educators, engineers or public servants, sold homes, left friends and moved in.

For Stuart Dunn, 90, it was the second time that his senior living landlord was asking him to move in order to sell the property. Until 2018, he lived in the Williams on the Upper West Side, a Salvation Army-owned independent living residence that was closed to make way for luxury housing.

“It is a societal issue that we really are at the cutting edge of,” he said, of the difficulty of finding a quality place to live with other independent seniors. “What is society going to do about the elderly?”

He said he most feared losing contact with his fellow residents, particularly Ms. Fisher, with whom he had become very close.

Some residents are meeting with lawyers to see what else can be done. About five have already moved out.

One has died, and another, who has been in the hospital, has not been able to deal with the news completely. “They are fearful of what is going to happen, and overwhelmed,” Joel Riff, 68, who is among the younger residents. “The mood is pretty depressed.”

They were particularly surprised, they said, because Riverview is owned by a nonprofit corporation that largely operates homeless shelters, Homes for the Homeless. After losing its city contract to run the building as a family homeless shelter in 2015, the organization decided to renovate and reopen the facility as an independent living building in early 2018, said Ralph da Costa Nunez, the chief executive officer of Homes for the Homeless.

The organization had succeeded with a similar conversion in Staten Island, and thought it could do the same in Manhattan. But Riverview never filled more than 35 or so of its 82 apartments, he said.

The residents felt that Riverview had not adequately marketed itself. Some said that they knew seniors who had reached out to explore moving in, but that the management had not followed up with them. Mr. da Costa Nunez disputed that account. He said there were likely not enough interested residents because Riverview did not offer assisted living services, and some families wanted the option of more comprehensive care as their family members aged.

Assisted living centers are regulated by the New York Department of Health, which provides additional protections to residents. But the Riverview, though it marketed itself as a place where seniors could bring private aides, had no such designation. As a result, the seniors, who had only month-to-month contracts, were vulnerable to eviction.

Mr. da Costa Nunez said that his organization could no longer afford to run the facility at a loss. “We are getting killed” with the costs of food, staffing and utilities, he said, adding that part of the issue was that the seniors were keeping the heat too high.

The losses, which he said amounted to “several million dollars already,” had started to threaten the operation of the senior facility in Staten Island, he said.

“No one wants to shut this down,” he said, “but Economics 101 is Economics 101.” He added that the closure “won’t happen before April for sure,” though the management had not stated the same in writing to the residents.

As the losses spiraled, residents said, the nonprofit repeatedly reassured its tenants not to worry and kept signing new contracts. Among the most fragile residents are a 99-year-old Holocaust survivor, who has no family and is looked after by an organization, Selfhelp Community Services, and Mildred Burt, 95, who arrived in March at the urging of a niece.

Ms. Burt had come from a public-housing project where she had lived for 60 years. Her niece, Pat Jackson, said: “Where does that leave me? With an aunt who is 95 years old who is basically homeless, and not much time to look. This is just heartless.”

Determined to fight back, the seniors formed a committee and contacted their elected officials. Five local elected officials signed a joint letter to Mr. da Costa Nunez demanding more time and support to the displaced seniors.

“They are slipping through the regulatory framework,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman, who represents the area, vowing to look into the matter further. “That seems to be duplicitous.”

Mr. Nunez himself earned over $620,000 in 2018 as the director of Homes for the Homeless and its nonprofit affiliates, according to tax documents. At a heated meeting with elected officials on Dec. 19, he claimed to be surprised by the angry reaction to the closure and “questioned why these seniors can’t fend for themselves,” Mr. Hoylman recalled.

As the issue gained attention, Riverview sent residents a follow-up letter on Dec. 20, saying that the building would “likely” not be sold until April.

“No one is being thrown out,” the letter said.

“We are going to run the place until we can transition every person out of there appropriately,” Mr. Nunez said in the interview.

Amid the uncertainty, the seniors have begun to plan their next steps. Both Mr. Dunn and Ms. Fisher have put deposits down at the Carnegie East House on East 96th Street, where assisted-living studios with meals start at $6,400 a month, a stretch for them. Ms. Wagner is moving March 1 to the EastView in Harlem, selling some of her furniture to do so.

“Luckily for me, I was a Navy wife, so I know what moving is all about,” she said. “Not that I am looking forward to it.”

Seniors facing eviction fear homelessness and isolation as California’s housing crisis rolls on

By Senior EvictionsNo Comments

Mario Canel met his wife inside the apartment where he’s lived for the last 33 years.

Canel, a house painter, was at the Silver Lake complex off of Sunset Boulevard on a job, but he and his customer quickly connected over their shared Guatemalan roots. It wasn’t long before Mario and Sabina married, and her home became his. For years, they basked in such comforts as plucking chayote from a vine outside their front window.

When his wife died in April 2005, Canel was consoled with walks throughout the neighborhood and his connection to people inside the eight-unit bungalow court. It also helped that even as the surrounding neighborhood gentrified, rent control held his rent below $400.

But three months ago, a real estate investor purchased the complex and soon told all tenants to leave. Suddenly, Canel faced the prospect of having to find a new home in a market where nearby studios rent for more than his monthly Social Security benefits — his sole means of support.

The threat of displacement and loss of community and routine can take a mental and physical toll. Experts say that’s especially true for seniors, who are perhaps the most vulnerable to California’s rising rents and evictions of any age group, and the fastest growing in the state.

There are signs that seniors are disproportionately affected by the types of evictions Canel now faces. Households with at least one person 62 or older made up 26% of no-fault evictions in Los Angeles city rent-controlled buildings between June 2014 and May 2019, according to the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department. By comparison, 13% of rental households in properties built before 1979 are headed by someone 65 or older, according to 2017 census estimates. (Most rent-controlled buildings in Los Angeles were constructed before 1979.)

The eviction threat was given a face in May when news spread on social media that 102-year-old Thelma Smith faced a lease termination in an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County. Smith had lived at her Ladera Heights residence for nearly 30 years when her landlord gave her notice to leave. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a friend of the woman, was one of many who expressed outrage over the lawful action.

But even when not facing eviction, seniors who depend on a fixed income have a harder time weathering rent increases, even the modest rises allowed under rent control. In 2016, 29% of all renter households in California spent more than half their income on housing, according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. That figure rises to 35% of renters ages 65 to 79, and 42% of renters 80 or older.

Overall rent growth has slowed in the last two years. But the average price for a vacant apartment in L.A. County is nearly 40% higher than it was in 2012, at $2,329 a month, according to Zillow.

That swift rise has been blamed for driving people of all ages into homelessness, but living on the streets can be particularly traumatic for seniors. In 2018, when overall homeless numbers went down, the tally of homeless people 62 and older in the greater Los Angeles area surged 22%, to nearly 5,000. According to the latest count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, that number has since increased to 5,231.

Moving is tough at any age, said Tracy Greene Mintz, a senior care consultant based in Redondo Beach. “[But] if you didn’t hear what someone said to you about what [housing] is available, or you can’t read your eviction notice or rental agreement and if you can’t comprehend and problem solve, how are you going to survive that? … You either adapt to a new routine or you completely fall apart.”

Canel’s new landlord is a limited partnership — a popular real estate investment vehicle. Attempts to reach Stephen Williams, who is listed in a state filing as a representative for the partnership, were unsuccessful. A letter left for Williams at the El Segundo office the partnership lists as its address was not answered and a man there declined to comment. Emails to an address the new owners gave tenants also went unanswered.

On Bellevue Avenue in Echo Park, a short drive from Canel’s complex, Luis Contreras, 63, and his family are also looking for a new home after another limited partnership purchased their rent-controlled building and gave the tenants an eviction notice. The partnership also lists Williams as a representative.

Contreras, a retired “jack of all trades” who worked in factories and painted houses, has had two open-heart surgeries and said his health is now worsening. But mostly he worries about how his family will find another safe and affordable home on their limited income.

A day after the family of four received notice to leave their $837-a-month, one-bedroom unit, Contreras went to the hospital with chest pains. But he didn’t stay long, despite the advice of the emergency room doctor.

“I’m afraid to leave the apartment unoccupied, because they could come and change the locks,” he said.

Because Contreras is at least 62, city rules allow the family up to a year to move. Kevin Contreras, a security guard in Beverly Hills who is helping his mom, dad and sister search for a new place, said they can afford rent of $1,100 a month. Landlords have told him they won’t accept more than two adults in a one-bedroom; he’s hoping someone will make an exception for his sister, who is disabled. In any case, a recent search on Zillow showed only five one-bedrooms under their price in the entire city of Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the state is only getting older. The Public Policy Institute of California predicts the number of Californians age 65 and older will grow by more than 4 million come 2030, nearly double what it was in 2012.

In many ways, tenants such as Canel and Contreras who live in rent-controlled buildings have more protections than others. Landlords for those properties, which in the city of Los Angeles were generally built before 1979, can raise their rent by only a limited amount each year and tenants generally can’t be evicted unless they fail to pay the rent or break other rules.

Property owners, however, can charge as much as they want each time a unit is vacated. And, under a state law known as the Ellis Act, they can get rid of rule-following tenants if they permanently remove units from the rental market — something that is often done in order to convert units to condos or build new, more expensive housing.

Tenants removed that way get additional leave and relocation assistance, though that money can be eaten up relatively quickly by moving costs and today’s sky-high rents.

Canel, for instance, can receive a year to move and $21,200. If he were approved for the cheapest place in Silver Lake that’s advertised on Zillow — a $1,225 studio apartment — that would cover the difference between his old and new rents for two years, not taking into account moving costs and a deposit.

In non-rent-controlled buildings, landlords can raise the rent as high as they want and can usually tell long-term tenants to leave in 60 days, as long as doing so wouldn’t break a lease. In those cases, relocation fees are not typically required.

A possible relief valve — subsidized senior housing and Section 8 federal vouchers — is in short supply, forcing people to tough it out in the open market. “On a fixed income, there is just no way you can keep up with changing market rates,” said Steven Wallace, associate director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

The high proportion of seniors in no-fault evictions may reflect that many have stayed in their units for decades and their low-rent units make their properties especially attractive for redevelopment.

As with so many aspects of the housing crisis, the crunch for seniors is most obvious in gentrifying neighborhoods. Rents in Silver Lake and Echo Park have soared as those and other longtime working-class Latino communities near downtown have seen an influx of wealthier residents.

Pricier restaurants and bars moved in, catering to a clientele who will pay $16 for a bowl of chickpeas and poached eggs.

“There are a lot of white people moving in” who can afford more in rent, said Dora Obando, who moved in next to Canel 25 years ago. Obando, who is in her 70s and also got an eviction notice, feels the Latino community is now being pushed out of the neighborhood.

“We live in such a peaceful environment,” she said, referring to her complex. “For them to not have any mercy and want to evict us feels very unfair to us.”

Richard Green, director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate, said gentrification was being driven by supply and demand. Higher-income individuals increasingly want to live in urban centers. An underlying shortage of housing kicks off a chain reaction, pricing middle-class households out of wealthier areas and forcing those people to seek homes in more affordable neighborhoods.

Seeing an increase in demand, Green said, landlords in low-income areas raise rents or redevelop their properties to make more money and cater to wealthier individuals.

But Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal of the L.A. Tenants Union says that view glosses over the role investors can play in kick-starting and accelerating the process by, for instance, marketing an area as “hip.” The union, which is working with the Echo Park and Silver Lake tenants, says government should pass strict rules against speculative investments made to replace one demographic group for another.

Fred Sutton, vice president of public affairs with the California Apartment Assn., said the industry group encouraged its members to think about the “social impacts as they review the operational realities” of their buildings. But he says some old housing needs to be replaced. Rather than control rents, he encouraged cities to expand housing supply and provide direct rent subsidies to those most at risk.

There are ways to cushion the blow of relocation, said Nicholas Castle, a professor at West Virginia University and senior-care expert. In addition to finding a place and moving, seniors need help adapting to a new routine, meeting neighbors and finding the nearest supermarket or church.

Tenants like Canel don’t get that level of help, but a housing department spokeswoman said a relocation consultant can provide people with listings that fit their criteria and transportation to view the rentals.

Then there are the complexities of navigating any assistance program.

You either adapt to a new routine or you completely fall apart.


Canel said the local Social Security office told him his $806-a-month low-income benefits, known as SSI, would be cut off if he accepted the relocation payment. That would leave him with only $145 a month in retirement income.

A Social Security spokesperson says SSI could be affected because — unlike retirement benefits — it is needs-based and the relocation payment might qualify as income.

That’s disputed, however, by the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department, which said it hadn’t received any complaints about lost benefits. “It would be unreasonable to force tenants to choose between accepting ‘relocation assistance’ and rejecting ‘relocation assistance’ in order not to jeopardize SSI,” a spokeswoman for the Housing Department wrote in an email.

As a growing number of local governments are turning to rent control, including Culver City, Inglewood and unincorporated L.A. County, state officials are exploring more options to protect renters.

A bill in the state Legislature would temporarily cap annual increases at 7% plus inflation in buildings older than 10 years and provide their tenants with “just cause” eviction protections. And Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing to spend additional money to provide legal assistance to renters.

Meanwhile, others argue the state efforts don’t go far enough.

On a recent Friday, tenants joined L.A. Tenants Union organizers in a march from Pershing Square to the office of Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), who last year didn’t vote on a bill that would have placed some additional restrictions on the Ellis Act. (Santiago’s office said he’s supporting a more modest Ellis bill this year, as well as the 7% rent cap.)

Canel donned a red homemade T-shirt that read “Stop Acta Ellis” and shouted his story into a megaphone as drivers honked support for the marchers.

In an interview, the septuagenarian said he was more upbeat since joining the Tenants Union in a fight to stay in his home. But he acknowledged his panic hadn’t disappeared.

“I have nowhere to go,” he said. “I could die in the streets.”