AUSTIN (KXAN) – On Monday, more allegations came out against 45-year-old Renee Segura and her unlicensed assisted living facility in Belton, “God’s Blessings.”
Serious problems were initially reported last Friday.
“I just remember thinking to myself that whoever runs this place is no different than a slum lord,” said Allen Vestal.
Vestal stayed in “God’s Blessings” for only a few days until the conditions forced his sister to rescue him. He says he was recommended the facility by nearby Cedar Crest hospital, only to find forty to fifty people crammed into the now abandoned building. According to him, they were barely fed and the facility didn’t have basic supplies; he had to borrow another patient’s glass to get a drink of water.
“Oh my god, my poor brother has no water. It was gut wrenching,” said Ginger Titus, Vestal’s sister. She got a text from him and came to get him out.
There’s a wide range of complaints; from basic disrepair – there’s a log holding up an AC Unit – to things more serious. The Attorney General’s office is investigating accounts of abuse, neglect, and possible sexual abuse.
Inside, only bed frames remain next to doors with no handles, only locks.
Vestal and Titus said before Segura would let him leave he had to pay $50 for his own driver’s license and Renee shredded his paperwork.
“This was supposed to be temporary, but I guarantee I’d be here for ten years unless someone rescued me,” said Vestal.
The CEO of Cedar Crest Hospital in Belton tells KXAN he’s looking into the situation. Neither Belton Police nor Austin Police have charged Segura with anything criminal.
The state Attorney General’s office and the Department of Aging and Disability Services are investigating civil crimes for now. Segura is expected in court August 27.
Many aging Texans need assisted living services and the cost forces some people to turn to unlicensed homes to get that care. The average cost of assisted living in Texas is more than $3,500 per month. It’s higher in Austin, averaging more than $4,100 each month.
The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services offers programs to help seniors but funding is limited, and many end up on waiting lists.
Earlier this year, lawmakers made some reforms to the Department of Aging and Disability Services as part of its “sunset process”.
There was an attempt to close the Austin State Supported Living Center and start a commission to consolidate and possibly close others around the state.
On the floor, San Antonio Democrat Trey Martinez-Fischer called a point of order and in the negotiations, those provisions were stripped out of the bill.
“The Department of Aging and Disability Services came under sunset review in 2015 and one of the recommendations was to close or consolidate State Supported Living Centers in Texas,” said Martinez-Fischer in a statement Monday. “A Bexar County family came to my office and said if their State Supported Living Center were to close, their son would die in 90 days. I successfully used my knowledge of the House Rules to fight off these closures, keep this bill clean and fight to save lives.”
“The actions of this illegal group home is just another example of how important State Supported Living Centers are to Texas,” he continued. “State Supported Living Centers play a crucial role in care and service of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”