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Leaders want more oversight for senior living facilities after 5 die in Hurricane Ida aftermath

“This is about humanity. This is about people."

NEW ORLEANS — A sign on the door at Annunciation Inn Apartments on Spain Street in New Orleans reads temporarily closed.  

“We were quite frankly horrified at the conditions in this building,” said District C councilmember Kristin Palmer.

The senior independent-living facility is one of nine in New Orleans forced to shut down after the City evacuated residents who were left there during and after Hurricane Ida. Five people died in those facilities; one was a man who died inside Annunciation Inn Apartments.  

“The other residents that were living here were in dire need of water and ice and food,” Palmer said. “Where the management office was, it was empty. There was just a posting on the window that [read] we suggested you evacuate and if you don’t have family call 311.”

Palmer says leaving vulnerable residents to fend for themselves is unacceptable and wants privately ran senior living facilities to be held to the same standard as nursing homes, which are regulated by the state.

“Adding independent living to that classification to the way they treat nursing homes and certainly qualifications of it, it gives greater ability for us to hold them accountable,” Palmer said.

That gap in accountability and protection led Palmer to file an ordinance with the city to require yearly inspections, evacuation plans, backup power supplies and on-site management for storms.

“This is about humanity. This is about people,” said Queen Lassai who lives in a senior living facility in the Seventh Ward.

Lassai’s building didn’t have to be evacuated, but says it easily could have been. She says there was no plan or management during the storm.

“A lot of people were screaming. We had one lady jump out of the window and broke her leg from the second floor,” Lassai said.

Before those facilities are allowed to reopen, city inspectors are doing thorough inspections. As of Tuesday, six of the nine had been inspected, revealing more issues.

“We have identified pretty significant deferred maintenance in all of these facilities, lots of work done without permits, things that just really are basic building management,” deputy chief administrative officer Peter Bowen said.

Palmer hopes to have these new requirements in place sometime this hurricane season.

Several of those senior living facilities that were closed are operated by the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Eyewitness News reached out for comment, but we’ve not heard back.