CHALMETTE, La. - It is a building that senior citizens once called home, but neighbors say it is now a hazard.
Nearly five years ago, Hurricane Katrina flooded the Huntington Place Senior Community in the 3800 block of De La Ronde Drive in Chalmette. Yet, residents said what they found inside the abandoned building put people at risk for identity theft and more.
All it took was a rambunctious dog named Baby, to bring her owner to the abandoned senior living center near their home.
"Our dog had gotten loose. She usually comes running through the field right here, but we didn't see her. So, we tried checking the building. She was running through the building at the time," said Nicholas, the dog's owner, who asked that we not use his last name.
When Nicholas and his friend, Christian, went into the building to get the dog out, they stumbled upon several filing cabinets, filled with medical records of the senior citizens who once lived in the facility.
"I thought they would actually burn it or get rid of it," Nicholas said. "But after five years of it still being here, I could still read everything in the files."
In the files were patient names, birthdates, addresses, medical information and social security numbers-- all clearly legible and left behind in the gutted building.
"I just don't think it's right to have all that just laying out in the open like this," said Christian, a Chalmette resident.
It is not just medical records that have been left in the building, but also strewn on the building floor were pills-- most of them still left unopened, in their original packaging. The building were syringes and an old cart containing medical supplies and more pills. Some of the packaging indicated the pills were Zyprexa, an anti-psychotic drug used to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. All of it is in an unsecured building where anyone could get in through either broken windows or missing doors.
"Kids play out here all the time, and if they wander off, they could get seriously hurt up in here," Christian said.
Eyewitness News brought its findings to the attention of St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro.
"I made a stopover at the building this afternoon. There was a representative of the owner actually addressing those issues," Taffaro said. "That's always of concern, especially in any medical facility, in terms of having any confidential records or substances that could be harmful to someone. Obviously, that's an unacceptable situation for any building to have."
Taffaro also said there are citations, fines and an $11,000 lien against the property. Eyewitness News tried to contact the owner of the property, but was unable to. Taffaro said the building was originally released for demolition in June of last year.
"We researched what the hold up is, since it was released from our office," Taffaro said. "Between the contractor and the monitoring agency, there was an issue of whether or not it was actually released because it was released by signature and not by e-mail."
Taffaro said the issue surrounding the release was cleared up and that the building should be demolished within the next 30 days.