The Sunday Dog: A Day at the Senior Arrest Home

In stories about America that will likely make you sick, authorities in Florida recently arrested a 93-year-old woman who had fallen behind in her rent at a senior community.  Juanita Fitzgerald will turn 94 this Tuesday, but will not be celebrating her birthday at her home at Franklin House in Eustis. Instead, she will be staying with friends after being released from the Lake County Detention Center.

Fitzgerald has been a resident of Franklin House since 2011. Last Tuesday, she was asked to pay her portion of monthly rent or leave the facility. When she refused, the facility turned to the one resource they should have avoided — law enforcement. When police and sheriff’s officers arrived, they arrested the 93-year-old and held her in the county jail for 2 days before a judge released on recognizance in lieu of a $500 bond.

Franklin House is an independent senior living facility owned by — you cannot write the irony in this — National Church Residences. According to the company’s website, National Church Residences’ mission and core values include work that “should serve God and always produce good for others” and a compassion that demonstrates “we truly care about people and see to treat residents with dignity, respect, and fairness.”

National Church Residences owns almost 350 housing and senior communities in 28 states and Puerto Rico. The not-for-profit corporation operates on a $270 million budget and houses approximately 25,000 senior citizens across the country. According to company president Mark Ricketts, National Church Residences takes active steps to ensure quality senior care and safety.

12162017 RickettsHR
Mark Ricketts (L) hobnobs with Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

Twenty thousand of National Church’s residents have been screened by Care Guide to determine health status, risk, rehabilitation, diet, and other issues. Ricketts says that when the evaluation indicates a possible problem, “We put them on a red-hot list and say we’re going to do everything in our power to get that senior to follow a plan of care.”

In Fitzgerald’s case, that plan of care apparently included immediate incarceration in a Florida county jail — complete with handcuffs and a fashionable orange jumpsuit. Apparently the jail jumpers are one size fits all…including the elderly who barely weigh 100 pounds.

Franklin House, like many of National Church Residences’ other properties is a HUD approved facility. HUD provides rental and mortgage assistance for low-income persons, families, and seniors like Juanita Fitzgerald. Commonly known as Section 8, HUD recipients pay a pro-rated portion of rent usually based on 30 percent of their total income. Rates and ratios vary based on the housing, recipient’s status, and income.

National Church Residences also receives a share of tax-based incentives for building low-income housing units. However, that tax credit has been questionable under the Trump regime’s scandalous policies against the young, poor, and aging. Now that the republican tax bill is storming through Congress, National Church may be feeling the crunch even more.

Lowering corporate tax rates will have a negative impact on facilities like Franklin House and the Juanita Fitzgeralds of the world.

“When investors owe a dollar of taxes that they invest in tax credits, they can get a dollar rebate,” said National Church’s executive vice president. “Their return is calculated based on how much they will have to pay in taxes — if they don’t have to pay as much, the value is less.”

With Donald Trump and the republican house leadership touting a tax plan that slashes corporate tax rates, the need for tax credits is diminished. The growth that Trump claims will happen, stalls. The market is still uncertain about the value of tax credits and NCR has felt the pinch as three new housing communities awarded credits last year were nearly shelved.

In addition, as Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Trump steamroll through Congress with their tax scam for the rich, millions of dollars in senior care and assistance programs are on the line. The plan simply does not address issues that affect Americans. Ask Juanita Fitzgerald how she feels about the recent stock market highlights, and she is likely not to care while she waits for her next court hearing over an arrest that never should have happened.

Featured Image: AIWasinski/WKMG via Twitter.


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