OSWEGO — The Ladies Home of Oswego announced Thursday it will close its doors before the end of the month after 146 years of service, leaving the non-profit’s eight current residents looking for shelter.
Officials attributed the closure in a statement to “ongoing financial difficulties” such as increasing costs and “a dwindling number of residents.”
“While its story and history are something to be celebrated, with the changes in needs and desires, [the Ladies Home] no longer can compete in the market place with more updated facilities,” said a statement from attorney Michael J. Stanley on behalf of the Ladies Home of Oswego Board of Directors.
The Palladium-Times received several anonymous tips in recent weeks regarding alleged financial issues and a possible impending closure of the Ladies Home. Attempts to speak with officials regarding those claims were met with silence before Thursday morning’s announcement.
Multiple individuals close to the Ladies Home told The Palladium-Times they could not speak publicly about the situation for fear of retribution.
Although there was a concerted attempt to keep the matters private, Stanley said there was no intention to imply retribution against any of the home’s affiliates.
“There has been an effort to keep the confidentiality as a courtesy to the residents and their families that they would hear it from [the Ladies Home] and not have to read it in the papers first,” Stanley told The Palladium-Times. “There was not an intent to muscle anyone out.”
Former resident care aide at the Ladies Home Jessica Thomas said that she was unfairly compensated and that she witnessed unsanitary living conditions at the house.
Thomas said that she worked there for about three months in 2018 expecting a weekly paycheck and was only paid nine times.
Thomas terminated her working relationship with the organization because of uncashable checks.
"I left because they were not paying me and the checks kept bouncing and that made my bank account go negative," Thomas said.
Thomas added that she has requested her W2 tax form from management and was met with no response.
Stanley said the closure plan, including the future of the Ladies Home residents, rests with the central New York division of the state Department of Health.
The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) approved the Ladies Home’s closure plan on Jan. 31 and the facility was notified on Feb. 4.
Jill Montag, a spokesperson for NYSDOH, said the department notified the Ladies Home of possibly occupancy at facilities in the counties of Oswego, Jefferson and Onondaga.
Montag also said the non-profit would give residents a choice in deciding any other method of alternative placement.
“The facility is required to ensure that all residents are placed in facilities that provide an appropriate level of care before closing, and the Department (NYSDOH) will monitor the progress of all closure-related activities,” Montag said.
Oswego County Department of Social Services Commissioner Stacy Alvord said that locally, the DSS would serve as a “safety net” for any residents without housing, although DSS would not be the first form of recourse.
“If these folks have any resources or families, we would certainly stand down,” Alvord said.
However, if there were an imminent issue concerning the safety of the residents, like utilities going out of service, DSS would be obliged to step into what would become an “adult protection” matter, Alvord said.
According to public real property records, the Ladies Home property at 143 E. 3rd St. has experienced multiple recent ownership changes.
On Sept. 9 of 2017, the organization Homes for the Homeless sold the property to the City of Oswego for $1. Later that year, on Dec. 12, the city of Oswego sold the property to Ladies Home of Oswego Inc. for no monetary compensation.
Oswego City Attorney Kevin Caraccioli said that the initial transaction occurred due to the non-profit’s inability to pay utility bills.
“This transaction was brought about by a failure on the part of the Ladies Home administration's failure to pay its water/sewer charges for a few quarters a few years back,” Caraccioli said.
The accumulated debt in unpaid water and sewer charges amounted to $11,144.35, with $6452.62 of that owed to the city and $4691.73 owed to the county, according to city records.
“The reason the county was paid is because the county makes the city whole on delinquent taxes,” Caraccioli said
Caraccioli also said the property bounced back-and-forth between the city and the county, with the city expressing no significant interest on the location.
“The county foreclosed on the property on behalf of the city and transferred the property back to the city,” Caraccioli said. “The city of Oswego was not interested in taking over ownership of the Ladies Home and I reached out to a representative of the Ladies Home and explained the situation.”
Caraccioli said that the Ladies Home paid the delinquent water and sewer invoices and the city deeded the property back to the organization.
He also added that the situation is too “fresh” for the city to decide whether they would be interested in the property at the moment.
Caraccioli also said he is not aware of any delinquent tax action to be pursued against the Ladies Home at this time.