The owner of an Orangeburg residential care and boarding home forced to close this past week believes she is being unfairly targeted by city officials because of her race.
But Orangeburg Department of Public Safety and city officials say Blake Residential Care Facility and Boarding Home was forced to close because it did not have a business license to operate as a residential care facility.
"I feel like if I wasn't a black person, they wouldn't have done it," owner Novella Jackson-Williams said. "They were acting like I committed a bunch of murders and put people in the basement."
The facility, located at 376 Tucker St., was forced to suddenly close July 3 and transfer residents after ODPS investigators learned it did not have a business license to operate a residential care facility.
Orangeburg City Administrator John Yow said the facility was "never issued a business license by the City of Orangeburg."
"They did apply and were denied," Yow said.
ODPS Chief Mike Adams said the facility was shut down by the city's building code official because of licensing and zoning issues.
"It is still under investigation by our agency and other agencies," Adams said, declining to provide details due to an ongoing investigation.
"ODPS notified DHEC (Department of Health and Environmental Control) on July 2, 2019, about a facility in Orangeburg with residents appearing to need supervision and assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), and was told that the Orangeburg Department of Social Services (DSS) relocated the residents to community residential care facilities (CRCFs), hospitals, and other homes," S.C. DHEC in a statement. "Several years ago there was a licensed CRCF at this same address but it closed down. DHEC is looking into whether the facility has been operating as an unlicensed CRCF."
Jackson-Williams denied the business ever intended to operate as a residential care facility. She said she never applied for a DHEC permit for such.
"It was never a residential care facility," she said.
Jackson-Williams said she was told by city officials that she had to close because she was operating a business in a residential area and could not do so because of zoning regulations and not because she did not have an adequate business license.
"I know what I am doing," she said. "I know my job. All we do is provide good service and good care for people who needed a place to live."
Jackson-Williams questions why she had to close in light of the fact that the house did once house a business -- a residential care facility.
"It used to a boarding home before," she said. "That is a business. Why is it OK for one person to have a business there but not for another?"
Initially, the facility's website identified it as a residential care facility, but she said the website was created about two years ago when she was planning to open a residential care facility. She said she forgot to change the site when the plans did not materialize.
Now the website states, "The Blake RCF & Boarding Home Services" with RCF meaning "residential care services," Jackson-Williams said.
Jackson-Williams said the services she provided were cooking, cleaning and laundry services as part of a boarding home. Home care, medication and transportation were provided by home care officials.
The facility opened in May but did not receive its first residents until June.
Jackson-Williams said eight people were living at the home at the time of its closure and she personally said she found places for each person to live upon the residence closing.
She also said nine people lost their jobs as a result. Jackson-Williams said she also found those individuals a job.
"I do a lot of good," she said. "I am a good person and I know what I do is right."
Tina Houran, who moved into the residence June 1, was one resident forced to leave.
Houran said she was also given only a four-day notice to get out, which she says was based on retribution for allowing another resident to use her phone to make a call complaining about the residence.
Houran left June 30 and currently lives with friends.
She described the conditions at The Blake as "deplorable."
"I had a bed but the floors were pulled up," she said. "There were extension cords galore."
"They had cockroaches and a handicap ramp that was not up to regulations," Houran said. "My power chair flipped halfway down the ramp."
Prior to her arrival, Houran said she was informed the house was beautiful and that she would have one roommate and a window.
"It was the total opposite of what I was told," Houran said. "Everything was falling apart. It was in shambles."
Christina Poston, whose mother with special needs lived at the residence for about week, said the woman called her complaining about the conditions.
"The whole time she was there for about six or seven days, she did not get bathed," Poston said. "She was complaining about it. She also fell off the ramp out of her wheelchair and not did get medical treatment for that either."
Poston was transferred to a Eutawville facility upon the Orangeburg closure.
Poston said after she heard from her mother about the facility she contacted law enforcement and requested a welfare check but never heard back.
Jackson-Williams denied the claim that the house was unsafe and dirty.
"We didn't mistreat anybody," she said.
She said residents had adequate food and were adequately taken care of.
Jackson-Williams acknowledged the house was old and needed more work. She said she was working toward that end, having just spent $3,600 on a new handicap-accessible bathroom.
Jackson-Williams also acknowledged there were extension cords throughout the residence but said that was because someone stole the house's ventilation system, requiring her to install window units in order to keep the house climate-controlled.
Jackson-Williams said she is not going to fight the closure.
"I don't want to do business with the city and the county of Orangeburg," she said. "They completely ruined everything. I don't feel it was fair. If you are going to close somebody's business, you are supposed to give me warning. They shut me down for no reason."
"I feel like I was completely targeted," she said.