PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — For Pensacola City Councilwoman Jennifer Brahier, the homelessness situation has hit home after having to take in her daughter’s friend who suffered a stroke and was discharged from a hospital in the area. Brahier told WKRG News 5 that the woman suffered a stroke three months ago and has been at a local hospital unable to communicate or move half of her body.
“My daughter and son-in-law kept trying to intervene to make sure that there was some kind of situation in place for her when she exited the hospital,” Brahier said. “Then my daughter couldn’t find her. On Thursday of last week, we found out that she had been dropped off at REAP. They only had two top bunks, which wouldn’t accommodate somebody who can’t move half of her body. They ended up putting her in a group home for ex-convicts, but to their defense, they were pretty freaked and did not know what to do with her.”
From what she was told, Brahier said hospital staff did not communicate with the woman, they just showed up and moved her to REAP. WKRG News 5 has made several attempts to get comment from local hospitals, but our inquiries have not been answered.
Brahier said after talking with Vince Whibbs, executive director of REAP, that he was shocked, as well.
“Vince told me that she was standing there looking shocked and didn’t know what to do,” Brahier said. “They dropped three garbage bags off, along with a shower chair and that was it. They left.”
According to Brahier, Whibb told her that each hospital has dropped off patients after they were discharged.
“Even if this happens to one person a week, this is horrible to be put out in that way,” Brahier said. “I mean, I am unable to get any information because I am not a family member. I tried to call the hospital and essentially, they said, ‘Who are you?’”
Before dropping the woman off at REAP, Brahier said the hospital tried to drop her off at a “iffy” hotel, but she didn’t have her I.D.
“She couldn’t open her medicines, she couldn’t get food for herself, and I just can’t tell you how many things like that she is dealing with,” Brahier said. “My son-in-law said to the workers, ‘Do you hear what you’re saying? What is she going to if she is in an emergency?’ They told him that she needs to call 911. She is non-verbal. The only thing that stopped her from going there that night was that she didn’t have an I.D.”
There are several reasons why Brahier thinks why hospitals could be doing this, including a lack of beds and family not being there to advocate for the patients.
She said issues like this are what some of the homeless population has to go through.
“She had a very bright future ahead of her,” Brahier said. “She had some rocky moments that she was going through and was trying to leave her husband. She was planning to leave town to where she has family, then three days before she was about to leave, the stroke happened. She was student government president in college, but this is still the situation she ended up in. I think we all need to realize that this is how a lot of these people end up in these horrific situations.”
When asked what the city can do to reign in the hospitals, Brahier said she doesn’t know at this point.
“As we are struggling to find the appropriate method to handle homelessness, none of us saw this as a contributing factor in the way it may be,” Brahier said. “When we suggested that REAP move one of their facilities into a respite facility, so that they could handle people that were being discharged, we weren’t imagining someone in such a desperate situation. The hospitals went from absolute full care, to dropping her off at the doorstep of REAP.”
All of this conversation was happening as Councilman Delarian Wiggins called for a moratorium on the release of $42,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funds that were previously allocated to REAP for its West Moreno Camp.
Wiggins visited the camp and said it was unsanitary.
“When I visited the campsite, there was a manmade shower, as well as a manmade ditch, where the water would runoff,” Wiggins said. “It had a very strong smell. I went further into the compound and saw a pile of wet clothes, blankets and the food wasn’t refrigerated. So, it brought many concerns.”
Wiggins said he got an email from Melissa Johnson, who was allegedly fired from REAP, accusing the organization of misappropriating funds.
“I think with this money being taxpayer’s dollars and being a better steward, I think there needs to be some type of audit to dispel those accusations,” Wiggins said.
The City of Pensacola city council meets Thursday at 5:30 p.m.