After New Times Investigation, City Moves to Close Fort Lauderdale Group Home

After New Times Investigation, City Moves to Close Fort Lauderdale Group Home
Illustration by Joseph Laney

Last week New Times opened a door on a little-seen part of the taxpayer-funded bureaucracy: the private group homes where Broward's troubled and abandoned kids are housed once they end up in state care. The investigation dove into complaints that the contractors paid by the state to watchdog these kids were providing little to no supervision, leading to sex trafficking, violence, and worse.  

Now, a week after New Times' investigation went live, the city of Fort Lauderdale is moving to act on one of the facilities featured in the piece. This week Crescent House, a group home for teenage boys, was cited for code violations. Fort Lauderdale officials are calling for the closure of the facility. 

Crescent house is technically an emergency shelter for 22 boys between the ages of 12 to 17. The facility is run by for-profit health provider Chrysalis Health Inc. The Broward-based company subcontracts its services with ChildNet, the lead agency in Broward handling all juvenile welfare and foster and group home situations for the state. As our investigation revealed, Crescent has been the target of numerous complaints regarding the behavior and supervision of the teens. From the story: 

Calls regarding violence were even more common. In September 2012, police responded to Crescent when three boys locked a staff member in a dark room after she refused to let them use the phone. In March 2013, Crescent staff called police when two residents began fighting and one pulled a knife. That same month, a random search found a "Taser inside a Bible" hidden by a resident at Crescent. That April, a resident angrily flashed a three-inch knife at a staff member; later, another staff member was struck in the head.

As one Broward Public defender explained to us, Crescent acted as an incubator an increasing amount of behavior among the residents. "I would have boys there, they would have zero criminal cases going in," the attorney said. "After staying at Crescent, they would have five, six, seven cases."

Now, the city is acting. Documentation provided by Fort Lauderdale — dated August 11, the day New Times' investigation was posted online — and weeks after we started asking questions  — cites the facility for a "Non-permitted land use in zoning district." 

In the description section of the paperwork, city inspector Ingrid Gottlieb wrote that the facility was "creating a nuisance in that there has been a negative impact on the surrounding properties." The facility has 14 days from the date of the complaints to bring the facility into compliance — which in this case apparently means shutting down. 

"While complaints against this property have been well documented," city spokesman Chaz Adams told New Times late Thursday night, "the City views this as a violation of permitted uses in a zoning district. To that end, we are currently working to address the situation."

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