Turn To Tara investigates reasons behind Breaking Ground shutdown

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MONTROSE -

Turn To Tara is investigating what may have led to the recent shutdown of a controversial shelter for veterans in northern Westchester, and how the whistleblowers who came forward and spoke with News 12 were not the only ones expressing urgent concerns about the facility.

Breaking Ground shut its doors back in September, months after News 12 unearthed shocking allegations of filth and medical neglect within the federally-funded housing program.

"This is not a coincidence. This is something that obviously came after I reached out to News 12. It proves my point is valid," said former Breaking Ground employee David Gardon in March. 

Gardon was expressing feelings of vindication after learning that the federally-funded housing program for at-risk veterans was closing its doors for good. Gordon sued over his termination, claiming he got fired only after blowing the whistle on allegations of filth and medical neglect in a News 12 report from November 2016.

As part of a yearlong probe, News 12 filed a Freedom of Information request with the VA in Montrose where the nonprofit program was housed. Buried in the 200 pages of documents received was an email sent by the manager of the VA’s homeless programs to his bosses on May 4, 2016 that seemingly contradicts repeated claims by Breaking Ground to News 12 that the facility was in top-notch shape.

It read that the bathrooms in one area were in need of much repair, and went on to mention mold in the showers, missing ceiling tiles and concerns among staff and veterans that the conditions pose a health hazard.  The email closed with requests for expedited repairs.

In addition, dozens of other emails revealed how they scurried to respond to News 12’s ongoing coverage, even requesting urgent repairs ahead of visits from lawmakers.

Rep. Nita Lowey went as far as writing a letter to VA officials in Washington asking for an investigation.

A few weeks later, the decision was made to shut down the facility.

They say the shutdown was not the result of all the controversy, but a reduction in the number of homeless veterans.

The family of one veteran told News 12 they are suing the organization after he died of an overdose in their care.

At the time of its closure last fall, 82 veterans were living at Breaking Ground.

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