The Last Resort: For the ill and elderly, boarding homes can be a refuge. Or a hell.

(AP Photo/Michael Probst, File) (Michael Probst, AP2009)

Read the article here. Watch KSAT News at 6:30 p.m. to see the full story, including an interview with Foster.

The proposition is usually this simple: Someone approaches an elderly person or someone with a mental illness. Sometimes that person is in a hospital and not responding well to treatment, or actually dying. And this is the offer: in exchange for payment, often your social security or disability benefits check, you can come and stay at their home, they will feed you, provide you a space to live in, and take care of you.

Often these patients have no other option and they accept.

Welcome to the world of Texas boarding homes where there is scant regulation and quite often homes that go “underground”, “off the radar” of authorities, and many promises made to resident that go broken.

Reports of maltreatment, theft, dangerous and unsanitary living conditions are common.

So how did this happen?

Part of the problem is that at one time there was state oversight of these businesses. However, after state administrators and politicians found that few of these homes were undergoing licensure, in between 2009 and 2011 the state legislature rescinded Texas legal oversight of boarding homes.

A flame, a tragedy, a change

That left cities and counties to handle the oversight.

Some adopted standards held by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services for boarding homes, including construction, sanitary conditions, and other factors.

In the case of San Antonio, the city had adopted some regulation for boarding homes in 2009.

But a 2012 incident revealed a weakness in those rules. In August of that year, the Amistad Residential Facility on Norwood Court caught fire, killing three residents. A review of one of the last state inspections from 2010 showed the panel that controlled the home’s fire alarm system was broken. There was no record of any repairs to it.

As a result, in late 2012 the city bolstered its boarding home inspections with more fire safety inspectors and adopted a comprehensive boarding home ordinance.

A little problem

However, there’s an irony to all of this because, like the defunct state regulatory system, currently just ten homes in San Antonio have presented themselves for licensure and therefore, regulation.

The rest? Hundreds of unregulated boarding homes try to stay unnoticed by authorities, by limiting the amount of residents they have and keeping them inside, hidden from neighbors.

Too often, the conditions in some of these homes are like something out of a Charles Dickens novel- Padlocked refrigerators and food cabinets, unsanitary conditions, residents with untreated and infected wounds, and more according to reports from police and other authorities, usually resulting from a tip to them.

And when the going gets too rough? Some unregulated boarding home owners pull up stakes and move to a municipality that doesn’t have a boarding home ordinance.

Wednesday, June 1 at 6:30 pm on KSAT 12

Which brings us to this week’s KSAT 12 Defenders investigation.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday Investigative Reporter Dillon Collier looks into one such boarding home owner who moved from San Antonio to unregulated Castle Hills, a woman previously accused of stealing thousands of dollars from a resident and leaving others in the worst of living conditions. So, what happens when we try to get her side of the story?

You’ll see in this KSAT 12 Defenders investigation.

About the Authors:

David Raziq is the executive producer for the Defenders investigative team.

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.