Lawyer says men in unlicensed care home lived in dungeon

We’ve all heard stories about police raids of unlicensed personal care homes. But, we rarely learn who the victims are, and just how bad these homes really are.

Our FOX 5 I-Team went inside one of these homes, and had a rare talk with the men who lived in what their lawyer calls a dungeon.

For Georgians who are physically or mentally disabled, a Personal Care Home can be a lifesaver. That's why the state regulates these homes that provide food and shelter for two or more people.

But, we investigated what it can be if that home is unlicensed and uninspected by the state.

Joe Wilson, who is mentally disabled, lived in one of those homes. He says he shared a dark, stark basement with two other men. They slept in tiny make shift rooms, often ate bologna and bread three times a day, and slept in bone chilling cold in the winter. Wilson also said the basement was infested with rats.

“They crawled in the ceiling, they crawled they were on the floor, under beds, they ran across table, on the sink, they were everywhere,” said Wilson. 

In our report, we toured the basement, and saw firsthand the open bathroom, unlit rooms, and the peeling, stained concrete floors where the three men lived.

Earlier this year, a Cobb County grand jury indicted Helen Bell the operator of this home and her daughter Sheila Hawkins on charges of neglect and abuse of a disabled person.

Jason Crawford, a lawyer hired by one of the men living in the basement said: “I have a sister who is a dog lover, she has lots of dogs. Eight to nine dogs. She treated her dogs far better than Helen Bell treated these men.”

Helen Bell's attorney told us she never claimed she ran a personal care home, but she did care for those men while she was dealing with her own medical problems.

The attorney for her daughter, Sheila Hawkins, said Ms. Hawkins had an "estranged relationship" with her mother, had never "stepped foot" in the home, and had no reason "to know of any abuse"