CLEVELAND — It’s tough for Crystal Debose Walker to look at the current state of her grandmother’s Cleveland home on East 103rd street.
“She has nothing. She’s literally homeless at this point,” she said. “It’s angering and it’s upsetting.”
Her grandmother, 87-year-old Rosie Williams, suffers from dementia.
“It’s pretty severe in the stages that she is in, so she’s not able to make a lot of decisions about her care or her lifestyle as living,” said Walker.
Walker said her grandmother never wavered on one decision: she wanted to live out the rest of her years at her own home. Williams’ family has devoted time and money into making her home livable, they’ve put in cameras, a Ring doorbell system, new flooring, and other updates to the home.
But just a few weeks ago, Walker’s cousin and Williams’ grandson moved into the home.
“The very first day he came in he began to destroy the property,” said Walker. “There’s no steps, there’s no doors, I mean he tore up the windows, he busted out the windows, he ripped up the floors, he took up her furniture and threw it in the yard off of the streets, he sold her stuff.”
She said her 50-year-old cousin is mentally ill.
“He’s never physically hurt her, but what he did do was he would lock her out of the house, he would hide her medication, he made her pee in buckets, he turned the water off,” she said.
Walker said her mother has power of attorney over Williams and they called the Cleveland Police Department 15 times in the few weeks her cousin moved in.
“My grandmother’s short-term memory is the one that’s the worst affected, so she remembers that this is a family member, she knows that this is her grandchild,” said Walker. “Police would still come out here and say ‘she sounds and looks fine to me, I think whatever she is saying is fine,’ at the same time dismissing the fact that she has dementia.”
Walker said police told her there was not much they could do, as her cousin showed mail addressed to him to prove he lived at the residence.
“We were calling the police. We were calling adult protective services. We were doing everything we were supposed to do legally to stop this, but nobody helped.”
She said it wasn’t until he began damaging the outside of the house, that police finally arrested her cousin for vandalism, but the house is now unlivable.
Community activist Delores Gray thinks the system failed Williams.
“Things are in place, but they’re not effective,” said Gray. “To me, they really weren’t listening to the family when the family was saying that he invaded her home.”
Gray contacted Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell who visited the home to inspect the problems. She said Cuyahoga County’s Adult Protective Services and Cleveland Police Department did everything to protocol, but it still didn’t save Williams’ home, and now she wants to look into how it can be prevented before a similar situation happens to someone else.
“Where are the cracks in the system? How do we close them? How do we move forward?” she said.
Walker said her grandmother is living with another family member at this time, but it is not helping her illness.
“I really want him to get the help, but unfortunately, he’s falling through the cracks and him falling through the cracks has left my grandmother homeless,” said Walker.
While her cousin remains in jail on the vandalism charge, Williams’ family has filed a temporary restraining order against him and an eviction notice. Cuyahoga County’s Division of Adult Protective Services is investigating the case.
If you suspect anyone 60 years or older is a victim of abuse, neglect, self-neglect or exploitation call Cuyahoga County's hotline: 216-420-6700.