The family of two teenagers who discovered the dead body of a drug rehab client from their backyard two years ago fears that the reopening of the scandalized facility will bring more tragic events to their doorstep.
Olga Tikhonova, a mother of two who lives next to a building owned by the nonprofit Baker Places, told The Standard that her daughter, then aged 14, called her crying after the nonprofit’s staff entered their family home to look for a client who died by suicide in February 2021.
Though Tikhonova wasn’t home, her teenage son, Ivan Severinov, led the Baker Places staff through the house and onto the backyard balcony, where he and his 14-year-old sister, Vera Severinova, saw a woman’s lifeless body lying on the wooden terrace below in Baker Places' backyard.
“She was lying there for a good two hours before they finally took her away,” Vera said.
Tikhonova said that the traumatic incident was the culmination of years of issues with the nonprofit neighbor, which has come under intense public scrutiny in recent months as ongoing financial mismanagement came to light.
Neighbors of the rehab facility are now bracing for its reopening, which appears imminent as neighbors reported seeing Comcast staff servicing the house on Monday.
“Nobody ever followed up with us about this from Baker Places at all,” Tikhonova said. “No apology, nothing.”
When Grove Street House was last open in 2021, neighbors said that clients would masturbate loudly while staring into neighbors' windows, that construction on the building swept asbestos onto their property and that stray cigarette ashes started fires. The facility closed in March 2021 for renovations and to reconcile neighborhood complaints through a corrective action plan.
In a statement, the Department of Public Health said that Baker Places is in the process of fulfilling a corrective action plan at Grove Street that includes window replacements, removal of asbestos and de-escalation of clients in crisis.
“The staff member reported she thought the client’s body had landed in the neighbor’s backyard,” a health department corrective action plan states. “Hopefully this situation will not happen again.”
Some clients of the nonprofit’s programs have told The Standard that they go for months at a time without seeing their case managers while they battle suicidal thoughts, volatile roommates and rampant drug activity. The Standard verified four fatal overdoses in the nonprofit’s other facilities in the last two years in addition to the February 2021 suicide.
In January 2020, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development gave Baker Places $3.9 million—or $437,778 per bed—to purchase and renovate the problematic Grove Street building after the nonprofit rented the property for over 40 years.
In a statement, the mayor’s housing department said that it’s awaiting guidance from the Controller’s Office to ensure the city’s nonprofit partners are in good standing, referring questions about oversight to the health department.
In November, a group of 50 neighbors signed a petition asking the city to permanently close the facility in light of the nonprofit’s recently publicized fiscal mismanagement. Neighbors say the program abruptly closed in March 2021, leaving mail on the doorstep and old furniture on the front sidewalk.
Despite being under red-flag status by the city controller, PRC and Baker Places will receive $59 million from the city this fiscal year, a city database shows.
Tikhonova said that apart from a visit from the program’s manager a few months ago, she’s unsure how the program will recoup the trust lost in the community.
“How is it going to be any different than what we experienced two years ago?” Tikhonova said.