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Back of the Yards

Vulnerable Senior Went Missing Twice Because Of Inadequate Security At South Side Assisted Living Facility, Family Alleges In Lawsuit

A second lawsuit alleges New City Supportive Living in Back of the Yards failed to properly care for another resident who experienced physical injury and emotional harm.

The New City Supportive Living faciility at 4707 S. Marshfield Ave.
Assisted Living Center
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BACK OF THE YARDS — Families and residents of a South Side assisted living facility are suing the developer, alleging negligence, inadequate security, staffing issues and substandard building conditions endangered its primarily older and vulnerable Black residents.

Family members of former residents of New City Supportive Living, 4707 S. Marshfield Ave., announced the lawsuits Tuesday. They are suing developer Celadon Holdings, principal Scott Henry and Goldblatts of Chicago, LP.

Relatives of Rebecca Spencer and Jean Smith, who lived in the building, said the conditions at New City put the women’s lives at risk and caused them physical injury and emotional harm. Both families have moved the women out of the facility and are seeking monetary damages. 

“These women wanted to be living in environments that allowed them to have some independence, but they needed care,” said Margaret P. Battersby, a lawyer representing families of the former residents. “They needed attention, and they needed services, and the owners of this building promised to provide it.”

The suit alleges Rebecca Spencer, who is 69 and has dementia, was left unsupervised twice in one week in June 2020, leading to her temporarily going missing.

In the first incident, Rebecca Spencer was found 24 hours later 6 miles away from the facility at a CTA bus stop covered in urine, according to the lawsuit. The second time, she was found locked in a basement storage room, according to the lawsuit. 

Tonya Spencer said family discovered her mother was missing during routine visits, but New City staff was unhelpful in locating her. She also said the facility did not notify her about her mother being missing and security cameras used to monitor the building weren’t working. 

Filing the lawsuit “was about accountability, and also to make sure that nothing of this magnitude ever happens to anyone else,” Tonya Spencer said. “It was a complete nightmare this entire time, this entire ordeal.”

Tonya Spencer said New City and staff assured her family they could care for her mother.

“We understand that she would not get 24-hour care, because that’s not their facility,” Tonya Spencer said. “However, there were certain things that they said in the contract that they were able to provide that they did not.”

The second lawsuit alleges Smith, an 86-year old former New City resident, was hospitalized three times in six weeks in early 2021 for hypoxia, an ear infection, dehydration and a urinary tract infection.

According to the suit, an independent nurse Smith’s family hired to provide additional care was denied access to the New City building. When she finally was able to examine Smith, the nurse discovered several problems related to her care, including her wearing no clothes on a bed with only a comforter with no sheets and being given incorrect medication, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also said Smith’s apartment was infested with bugs and the carpet smelled of urine.

Paul Stewart, a representative for Henry, declined to comment on specific allegations.

“We remain committed to the safety and wellbeing of all of our residents in our assisted living apartment units, and once we have received any court filings, or have been served with any court filings, we will appropriately review and respond to any that have been served to us,” Stewart said.

The lawsuit comes as Celadon is facing allegations at another building it developed — West Pullman School Senior community — with some residents saying there is lax security and safety issues. The independent living facility at 11941 S. Parnell Ave. is a former elementary school where classrooms were renovated into apartments.

The lawsuits do not cover the concerns of some residents at the West Pullman building. But they attended the news conference about the lawsuits, saying they would deliver a petition to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Attorney Generla Kwame Raoul asking officials to investigate what’s happening at their facility.

They say their complaints of drug sales, robberies, trash building up and other issues haven’t been properly dealt with by management or its partners.

Henry told Block Club in April he was committed to addressing issues at that building.

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