At the Ivy Ridge home in Wissahickon yesterday, Jane Urban sat in the front-lawn gazebo to shield herself from the warm afternoon sun as she described how most of the poor and elderly had moved on.
Only she and two others remain, she said, in what was once a personal-care facility and is now a boarding home.
Ivy Ridge was the last remaining facility operated by Rosalind S. Lavin, who has run personal-care homes for more than two decades. Under a settlement announced this week by the U.S. Attorney's Office, she agreed to never again own, operate or manage any government-funded or private-pay care facility.
U.S. Attorney Patrick L. Meehan said that Ivy Ridge was one of four personal-care homes found to have been unfit and unsanitary. The three other personal-care homes owned by Lavin and covered by the settlement have been closed for several years.
Lavin, 65, and the corporate entities that controlled the facilities also agreed to pay $700,000 to the government in the civil settlement.
Lavin and her husband, Robert, who has since died, owned a $1.8 million home in Villanova, a four-acre hillside property with a swimming pool and concrete lions at the front gate. No one appeared to be home yesterday afternoon when a reporter visited.
Meehan said Lavin's living conditions were a striking contrast to what the residents of her homes endured.
In 2000, Upper Providence Township forced the closing of the Brookwood Personal Care Home in Delaware County, saying it was "unfit for human occupancy."
John Marmion, 65, who was a resident at Brookwood when it was closed, said in a telephone interview last night that the place was dirty, there wasn't much food, and roaches were a problem.
"They didn't take care of us. It was terrible," said Marmion, who said he is content at a facility near Norristown where he now resides.
The two others in Philadelphia, Conlyn House, in the 5800 block of North 16th Street, and Thoroughgood House, in the 400 block of South 40th Street, had been cited for fire-code deficiencies. They closed in 2002.
Meehan, who said the investigation was started in part by articles in The Inquirer and the Delaware County Daily Times, said that personal-care homes are less regulated than nursing homes, leaving the elderly especially vulnerable to poor care.
The Inquirer reported about deplorable conditions at Thoroughgood House as far back as 1995.
Under the settlement, Ivy Ridge can be operated as a boarding home, and three rental signs were on display at the stone-front and gray-brick facility on Ridge Avenue. The place also is on the market with an asking price of $2.4 million.
Urban said that in her four months there, Ivy Ridge has been clean, the meals have been good, and the staff members have been helpful. There had been about 45 residents, she said.
"I've had no problems whatsoever. The people that work here are fantastic," said Urban, who said she was in her 60s.
She has lived there since February but is looking for a cheaper place to rent. She declined to say how much she currently pays.
"Let's say enough," she said.
A woman who answered the front door said that she was a former employee and that no current workers or other residents wanted to comment.
Poor people who can't afford the fancier-looking nursing homes need someplace to live - and she said that Ivy Ridge provided decent care. "It's a roof over their heads," said the woman.