Decaying Home for Mentally Ill in Newark Draws Attention

By Brian Thompson
|  Thursday, Feb 17, 2011  |  Updated 7:47 AM EDT
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It's a boarding house for the mentally ill supported by the taxpayer.But residents say it's a house of horrors.<a title=New Jersey Reporter Brian Thompson got a look inside." />

It's a boarding house for the mentally ill supported by the taxpayer.But residents say it's a house of horrors.New Jersey Reporter Brian Thompson got a look inside.

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A Newark home for the mentally ill that is infested with pests and other problems is attracting attention from elected officials who are demanding better conditions for the residents.

After former Gov. Dick Codey visited the building on Hawthorne Avenue on Tuesday, health inspectors showed up the next day.

Codey, known for his advocacy for the mentally ill, said when he visited the boarding house, he saw bugs in the bedrooms and rodent feces in the kitchen.

 "These people would be better off in jail," Codey said. "Their beds would be better, the food would be better. The medical staff would be 10 times better because right now there is none."

Codey is concerned that Gov. Chris Christie may try to shut down one of its mental hospitals to save money, which could send more people out to homes like the one on Hawthorne Avenue.

Newark City Councilman Luis Quintana saw the building Wednesday and is also demanding help for the residents.

"This place should be closed down, shut down and these people should be taken somewhere where they can have a decent place where they can stay," Quintana told NBC New York after a brief walk through the rambling three-story home.

He interpreted for one Spanish-speaking female resident, who said: "It's very dirty and the walls have bugs and worms."

The owner, Charles Hill, told NBC New York in a phone interview that there are 26 residents living in the home, which is licensed for 30.

He said he gets $500 a month per person from the government through SSI checks to house and feed and care for people who might otherwise be in a state institution.

"Were there some violations, I would say there were some, yes," he admitted.

But he then accused Codey, who is still a state senator, of "nitpicking." Hill said he has an exterminator come once a month and clothes are washed twice a week.

Asked about  an open sewer line that had been discovered in the basement, Hill said it was left open by the plumber who is frequently called in to clear up the lines.

"Toilets back up once a month," Hill said. He said the people in the boarding house frequently throw things in the toilets that back them up.

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter@brian4NY

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