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10Investigates: Records show Cerebral Palsy Center home residents lived in 'dangerous' conditions

Adult Protective Services investigated the home in July, records show. Letters from Knoxville officials show it failed to meet "life-safety" code requirements.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Records show all six people who lived in the Cerebral Palsy home in North Knoxville were "depressed and [had] anxiety caused by the current state of the home."

In July, state investigators with Adult Protective Services (APS) and the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) conducted a joint investigation into the condition of the home at 2014 Highland Drive. 

The report obtained by the 10News investigative team showed all six individuals wanted to move from the home "because it was dangerous."

"It just slowly went downhill," said Doris Hager, whose son lived there more than two decades. "It just wasn't a happy place anymore. Nobody smiled."

In August, Executive Director Angelia Jones told families the home would permanently close September 15.

"It's not a program that has been financially viable for a while," she told 10News on September 7. "We've tried to figure out ways to make that work, but without full occupancy, it doesn't."

Jones said her remaining staff members then left for other opportunities, forcing her to close a week earlier — on September 7. 

10News reached out to the Cerebral Palsy Center on September 26 with additional questions about the records we obtained. We were told Angelia Jones was out of the office all week. 

We left a message the week of October 3, but have not yet heard back.

Credit: Doris Hager
The Fire Marshal's Office noted "numerous sections throughout where the ceiling is sagging and might fall at any time."

RELATED: 'So upset' | Cerebral Palsy Center closes Knoxville boarding home due to financial problems

All six individuals "did not feel safe at the home"

Records show the Tennessee Department of Human Services received an initial complaint from someone living at the home on July 22, 2022.

Documents provided by DIDD show he had concerns about the living conditions such as recurring roof leaks and a lack of emergency call buttons.

DIDD and APS then conducted a joint investigation July 27, 2022.

Records show all six individuals told investigators they did not feel safe at the home and would like to move because "it is dangerous."

They said they are "depressed and have anxiety caused by the current state of the home," the report said. 

Credit: DIDD

Photographs show the ceiling sheetrock was damaged from a "severe roof leak." In some rooms, the people who lived there said water would leak through the roof onto their beds.

"I tried to get [Christopher] to come home to live with me," Doris Hager said. "He would just go in his room and stay in his room. He didn't want to leave because it was such a hazard to go out."

The documents showed "the food supply appeared sparse for six people living in the home." Multiple extension cords were listed as fire and trip hazards.

DIDD said its licensure team and inspectors "immediately contacted the fire marshal and codes because immediate action needed to be taken."

Angelia Jones told 10News last month she was unaware of any state inquiries about the standard of care or building conditions aside from the annual inspection.

"Not to my knowledge," she said September 7. "I mean, if they have, no one's contacted me specifically for those concerns."

She said if they did visit, it wasn't while she was here and there weren't any follow-ups. She did not respond to our messages asking for more information once we obtained the state investigative file.

"Does not comply with applicable Life-Safety Code requirements"

The next day — July 28, 2022 — an inspection from the Knoxville Fire Department's Fire Marshal's Office uncovered a number of deficiencies.

"State has concern for resident safety, due to apparent lack of maintenance of structure, and most residents are in wheelchairs or need assistance with mobility," the letter to Cerebral Palsy Housing read. "Inside the structure, [fire inspectors] noted several areas with evidence of water damager, numerous sections throughout where the ceiling is sagging and might fall at any time."

The KFD Fire Marshal's Office said the facility did not comply with applicable Life-Safety code requirements and had to correct its deficiencies as soon as possible. It referred the boarding home to the city of Knoxville's Neighborhood Codes Enforcement team. 

"It's an older home. There are certainly repairs to be made," Angelia Jones said. "We have an annual inspection from a couple of different groups just to make sure it's still a safe place and we do have some issues."

Codes enforcement inspected the home July 29, 2022, and said it violated city ordinances, the International Building Code and the International Property Maintenance Code. 

"I've heard people say it was condemned. It wasn't condemned, there's nothing like that," Angelia Jones said. "It was truly, it's not a financial[ly] viable option without full occupancy."

Credit: Knoxville Fire Department

The Cerebral Palsy Housing Corp. was given 120 days to fix the violations. DIDD said the organization decided not to.

"When the owner was presented with the issues identified by codes and the fire marshal, DIDD was informed that [Angelia Jones] intended to close the house and submitted the paperwork," a DIDD spokesperson wrote. "No further action about compliance issues was taken by DIDD, since notice to close the home was submitted."

"He's starting to get happy again"

Doris Hager watched Christopher's happiness fade away during his final years at the Cerebral Palsy Housing Corp. boarding home. Still, he was devastated by the move.

"I've never seen him cry, but he was crying," Hager said. "It's been a hard transition for him because he was taken away from people he's lived with for years."

Credit: WBIR
Doris Hager and her son Christopher talk about leaving the Cerebral Palsy home.

Christopher found a new place to live through the Sertoma Center of Knoxville. Doris Hager said she noticed a difference after just a few weeks.

"I can start seeing that little blip in his eyes again... he's slowly, but surely getting there," Hager said. "He's really starting to get happy again. He's my Christopher again."

"I wish I had better answers"

Jones told WBIR last month she knew the home's closure heavily affected the six people who lived there. She said she had no other choice.

"I think we're all frustrated with it," she said at the time. "I wish I had better answers. I really do."

She said the Cerebral Palsy Center will continue to operate its day program, which provides services and support for people with cerebral palsy.

Credit: DIDD
A picture from the DIDD investigation shows "the ceiling has deteriorated severely due to massive roof leak of home."

The vacant property will be put up for sale.

"We'll look at other agencies who may have needs for something of this size and layout and go from there," she said. "There are plenty of other services and supports that we offer, but that don't involve a home that's not filled to occupancy."

10News reached out to the Cerebral Palsy Center on September 26 with additional questions; we were told Angelia Jones was out of the office all week. We left a message the week of October 3, but have not yet heard back.


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