AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services is currently investigating Zoe’s Place, 8007 Burnet Road, after complaints surfaced of lack of air conditioning and an insect infestation.
Austin-Travis County EMS arrived to help at the assisted living facility on Friday morning. They said approximately 50 people were living inside the facility.
“This morning at 4:30, DADS came in with a team and had an inspection. Upon their arrival, several people left on foot and DADS has been unable to talk to them. They found some people right away who had lice and bed bugs and appeared to be the people who called it,” explains Captain Rick Rutledge with ATCEMS.
Several of the residents tell KXAN News the facility took in people from God’s Blessing—which was shut down on by DADS last week.
A spokesperson for DADS says the state received a complaint regarding the facility on Thursday. So far, investigators have found lice, bed bugs and lack of beds at the facility.
Connor Kutach has lived at the home for four months and said the investigation may have been prompted a day earlier when he took another resident to the hospital.
“One of the new girls [from God’s Blessing] woke up and her arms and body were covered in bed bug bites,” said Kutach. After taking the woman to the emergency room, he said he received a phone call from a social worker.
“They were asking me all these questions about the condition of the home.”
The state agency is still trying to determine if the facility needed an assisted living facility license to operate. An operator can legally operate a boarding home without a license as long as they don’t provide assisted living services, i.e. medicine dispensing, feeding.
While the situation might seem bad to some, several residents said it is a good place and came to the defense of the management.
“I guess everybody is doing what they can. A lot of people could be in a worse situation,” said Kutach. “This is one of the best group homes in Austin. We are really well taken care of here. It’s just stuff like this, bed bugs and outbreaks, they have a hard time controlling it.”
“It is not a bad place, I have nothing bad to say,” said Rose Daniels. “This woman works hard.”
Because the facility was unlicensed, DADS said the decision to shut down Zoe’s Place would have to be made by City of Austin Code Compliance officers.Code Compliance decided to allow Zoe’s Place to remain open, but did cite them for violations.
City Code says it is issuing notices of violation (NOVs) at Zoe’s Place for doors not opening properly, electric outlets and infestation of bed bugs and roaches.
While the facility has had some previous complaints, no NOVs were issued because the city was not able to gain access.
Operator’s Criminal History
Tommie McKinney, 52, has been charged with numerous crimes over the past decade, including numerous thefts and several felonies, according to Texas Department of Public Safety records.
Authorities arrested McKinney for theft in 2002. She was caught shoplifting items from an Austin mall retail store. The arrest affidavit in that case states McKinney’s criminal history shows 14 theft convictions.
In Williamson County, McKinney has been charged both misdemeanor and felony theft, according to county records.
In 2007, authorities charged McKinney with injury to a disabled individual. Investigators said she opened a line of credit and racked up $1,100 in charges in the name of an elderly woman staying at her group home, Zoe’s Place, according to an affidavit. Court records show McKinney was later convicted of the crime and placed under community supervision for two years.
McKinney got probation on that case, but eight years earlier she served time in prison—one of two prison stints for theft convictions in the 1990s.
McKinney could face more trouble, if she was operating an assisted living home without a license.
“While we don’t know if they were operating illegally without a license, we do know that the environment was very bad for the people living here,” said DADS Spokeswoman Cecilia Cavito. “While it’s unclear if Tommie Yvette McKinney needed a state license to operate Zoe’s Safe Place, her criminal history is plain to see in these court records.”