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'I felt like I was an animal in jail' | Resident says Atlanta health care provider put him in danger

Police records show someone beat Elbert with a belt buckle so bad, that it left a gash to his forehead.

ATLANTA — Ricky Drayton is his brother’s keeper. 

He makes sure his older brother, Elbert, doesn't fall, miss a meal or lose his medications. 

“It’s for memory, you know," Elbert said, referring to his brother's medications for dementia.

Caring for his 63-year-old brother is a responsibility Ricky took on after removing Elbert from an Atlanta apartment complex in March following many incidents that put him in danger. 11Alive learned Elbert is not alone.

"I FELT LIKE I WAS AN ANIMAL IN JAIL"

The complex on 37 Wadley St. in Atlanta is operated by a company called Gift Transitional Home. 11Alive investigators found police records that show someone beat Elbert with a belt buckle so bad, that it left a gash on his forehead.

Credit: WXIA

"I didn't know he had the belt," Elbert recalled. 

Three days later, Elbert was back in the hospital.

“One of the counselors that was over there, she said, 'you know, go get your brother now. He’s been in the hospital twice in one week,'" Ricky recalled. "What do you think is going to happen next?”

Gift managed Elbert’s money, too. 11Alive investigators found the group charged him about half of his $1,200 monthly social security benefits.

As for food and toiletries, Elbert's family said Gift gave him just $70 a month.

“There wasn’t no food in there," Elbert said. "There’s wasn’t any furniture in there. So, when you walk into the apartment, it’s empty.”

The company often locks the complex with a padlock during the day and at night, Elbert said.

"So you couldn't leave?" investigator Andy Pierrotti asked Elbert. 

"Nope. Only when they opened it," he replied. "I felt like I was an animal in jail or something.”

Sytha Lee lives at the complex, too. She said she doesn’t mind the lock.

Credit: WXIA

11Alive visited the complex and asked Lee if all tenants own a key.

"No, because they roam," she said. "They get lost and other things.”

Not all residents own keys to get out of the complex, she said. 

Claudine McGriff lives at the complex, too. 11Alive investigators found her locked out on a hot day out after missing an appointment.

“How does it make you feel that you can’t get inside now?” she was asked.

“Bad because it’s hot out here," she replied.

A HISTORY OF PROBLEMS

Gift is owned and operated by Christine Nwankwo-RichardShe also runs Agape Community Integrated Community Health Systems, Inc. The website said it aims to help people suffering from substance abuse, mental health and homelessness.

Credit: WXIA

An 11Alive investigation found both companies have a long history of problems. Records show police responded to the complex at least 242 times over the past eight years for burglaries, suicides and fights.

Former resident Steven Nibbs died living there. He was hit by a car after wandering off at night.

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11Alive spoke with Nibb's family in 2018 and they accused Nwankwo-Richard of not treating his mental illness.

“She’s supposed to make sure that he’s in a living, safe situation," Nibb's sister Amelia Jackson said. "None of that was going on.”

The Georgia Department of Community Health cited Agape for multiple deficiencies including failing to conduct treatment plans, drug screenings and not facilitating psycho-social assessments of its clients.

WHAT'S NEXT

The state declined to comment but said it’s now aware of the new complaints involving the mental health company and the apartment complex its owner operates, which both remain open today.

Credit: WXIA

Records show the state performed an inspection last month and found no violations. Repeated phone calls and emails to the owner were never returned to 11Alive.

Meanwhile, Ricky doesn’t believe the company is equipped to take care of its clients. He wants the state to step in before someone else gets hurt, or worse.

“What they need to do is get some people in there that care about helping people," he said. 

Elbert’s family says he’s doing much better. He's struggling with dementia but is now under their care.

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