Taxpayers paid St. Pete slumlord to house foster teens in transition

Investigations

A teenager enrolled in a state-funded foster care transition program that You Paid For says his case managers placed him in a squalid St. Petersburg assisted living facility infested with bedbugs and shared with mentally disabled clients who had little or no food to eat. 

“I got placed here because I needed a placement. I was in a shelter. I was homeless and I was getting back into extended foster care and this was the only placement open for me,” said Brice Trotta.

It turns out Trotta was one of five former foster teens who had been placed in the ALF at state expense.

The home was operated by Touched by Faith, an organization owned by Marcus Anderson who also formerly operated ALFs under the name of Tampa Bay Behavioral Health. 

Anderson recently had two other St. Petersburg properties closed by city inspectors as “unfit for human habitation.” Property records indicated he does not own the house where Trotta lived, even though his company operated an ALF at that address.

Trotter said he stayed in Anderson’s ALF last summer and at one point Anderson moved him to a second group home where he lived with a married couple, another foster teen in transition and a mentally disabled man who moved in but had no bed to sleep in and no room to call his own.

“We tried to block off a section of the room for him but it was like he was getting treated like a barnyard animal,” Trotter said. “He didn’t have his food card, Marcus had it.”

Trotta said he and another foster teen in transition were left to care for the disabled man who Anderson had placed in an independent living home, even though he needed a higher level of care. 

“Just dumped him there and left us to take care of him we spent our own money to feed him,” Trotta said.

Trotta said that home on 41st. Ave. S. had no blinds, the washer didn’t work and at one point, Anderson’s maintenance man delivered a used mattress infested with bedbugs which they had to immediately remove.

“Filled with bedbugs,” Trotta said. “It was so much that I even put some in a case to show them proof.”

We called Anderson on Monday, but he hung up the telephone as soon as News Channel 8’s Mark Douglas identified himself.

According to state records, the Agency for Health Care Administration issued a moratorium on the ALF at 2600 4th St. S. last summer as well as later suspending and revoking Anderson’s license to operate.

Inspectors cited a number of violations ranging from paperwork issues to a lack of oversight, food and clothing for mentally disabled residents. Inspectors found workers at the ALF transporting residents without shoes or sufficient clothing to a nearby day care center that turned out to be a lounge and bar.

In one instance, workers refused to allow inspectors to enter the ALF and they had to call law enforcement to gain lawful entry. Inspectors said Anderson wouldn’t take their calls either.

In addition to shutting down Anderson’s ALF, AHCA fined Touch by Faith $5,000 and $25,000 in separate enforcement actions that just became final earlier this month.

Trotta says he was placed at the facility last summer by Camelot Community Care, Inc. which operates under a contract with Eckerd Connects, the lead community-based care organization paid millions by DCF to deliver foster care services in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties.

Trotta says he lived in the two group homes for a few months last summer, long before Anderson made headlines this month for operating two other squalid group homes in St. Petersburg without running water or electricity.

“This isn’t right. This isn’t how you treat veterans. This isn’t how you treat disabled people. This isn’t how you treat people that come out of foster care. This isn’t how you treat any human being,” Trotta said.

In response to our questions about Trotta, Camelot Community Care manager Michael DiBrizzi sent 8 On Your Side a statement verifying that until July of last year, Camelot “assisted five young adults in securing housing provided by Tampa Bay Behavioral Health (owned by Marcus Anderson).”

The statement says the placements were all “short term,” lasting between two weeks and four months.

“The young adults were visited at the home often and in the summer of 2017, we recognized that the services promised by Tampa Bay Behavioral Health were no longer being delivered and conditions began to deteriorate.”

Camelot’s statement says the organization “proactively” found new housing for the only young adult still living in the ALF.

“In our role of case management and support to young adults in extended foster care, we listen to the feedback of our clients and in this case, we stepped in when services to our clients did not meet our expectations.”

We’ll have more on this story on News Channel 8 tonight at 5:30.

Follow Mark Douglas on Facebook

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