Staff at Corpus Christi State Supported Living Center now face financial difficulties amid trying to keep residents and themselves safe

The Corpus Christi State Supported Living Center (Matt Pierce, Southside Light News/Getty Images)

Staff at the Corpus Christi State Supported Living Center have gone through a lot this year amid the coronavirus pandemic and a breakout of the virus that crippled the facility during the summer. Now, several of those staff members are facing financial hardships after having their vehicles vandalized while on duty. 

Staff members say that over the past few weeks an unidentifiable resident has been breaking off windshield wipers, smashing windshields and causing significant damages to vehicles. They have approached local administrators who say that there is nothing that can be done besides develop a behavior plan for the resident in question and that even though the vehicles were damaged by a resident while they were on the job, there is little that can be done and that employees must file the damages on their own insurance and pay deductibles out of pocket. What comes with that are the almost customary increased premiums. Now, the employees there say that they have had enough. 

At least two of the employees say that they have had windshields broken by the individual and others report having “deep scratches” and “significant dents” knocked into their vehicles as a result of the outbursts from the resident. Several others say that they are concerned to even come to work over at the facility and have resorted to having friends and loved ones drop them off and pick them up after their shift so they do not risk having their vehicles vandalized. 

“This is pretty serious,” one employee said on Sunday. “Most of us here make $10 per hour or less and we just cannot afford to have the damages fixed out of our pocket, especially when they are caused at work.” 

Employees at the facility say that they have called everybody from on-site security to the local police department. Reports have been filed for insurance purposes but little more has been done about the situation. One of the employees had their vehicle vandalized three separate times, each time administrators told them that nothing could be done about it and that they would just need to pay for the damages out of pocket. 

State officials have yet to comment on the situation or potential remedies for staff members who are having their vehicles damaged. Security officers who work on-site can offer little to no assistance because they are not trained to deal with the residents when they become outraged. Employees are being told that they cannot park outside of the fence of the facility because it might not “look favorable” and they are concerned that they could face penalties for even taking that risk. 

Staff have also said that the incidents and issues have even been driven up the chain of command to local administrator Melissa Gongaware who has offered no relief. Employees say that is exactly what they expected to get from her and her office. So now they are reaching out to state leadership and the press for some sign of relief. 

“”We don’t make a lot of money and most of us cannot afford to have this happen to our vehicles,” another employee said who had their vehicle damaged. “I mean if it was a random act of violence then whatever, but this is a job hazard and coming from a resident here. They can and should do something to either compensate us for the damages or make us safer.” 

Things like this have happened before at the facility and records show that it is a fairly common occurrence across the board at other state facilities. In most cases the state has at least stepped up and offered remedies to the victimized employees, here they have just not had any such help other than just a few verbal notifications from administration that there is nothing that can really be done. That ends up just leaving staff frustrated and feeling abandoned. 

“One thing we need here is representation,” another staff member said. “Things here get overlooked and mismanaged every single day and administrators do little about it, if anything. To them we are disposable but deep down they know the reputation that this place has and it is going to only get harder to find people willing to work here.” 

They say that the time has come for state officials to act on their demands for fair representation. 

“We are threatened to not speak with the media or outside people about what goes on here,” a senior level staffer told The Southside Light News over the weekend via telephone. “We can lose our job and our high up make no secret about it that they are scared of bad media and they will deny any of this is taking place. But we know it and they do too.” 

The Corpus Christi State Supported Living Center has been the center of attention for years when it comes to serious human rights and employee rights violations. Just this past summer during the local peak of the coronavirus pandemic an “Immediate Jeopardy” order was issued against the facility by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). According to the CMS as of August 3, 2020, CMS have cited more than 3,300 deficiencies and imposed more than $5.5 million in penalties to facilities for failing to report required COVID-19-related data to the CDC and for not taking proper measures to ensure patient/resident safety. They would not comment on if the Corpus Christi State Supported Living Center was among them. 

Regarding the vandalism currently at hand there is a question as to what the scope of responsibility is for the state and what, if anything they plan to do about it. 

“We cannot keep on working under the conditions,” the senior staff member said. “If the state administration or state leaders are not going to intervene then us employees are just going to have to ban together and do something ourselves.”