Jannet Johnston of Conyers peers through the glass at the front door of The Garden House assisted living facility Monday morning. Johnston's husband, Robert L. Johnston, was a resident there for the last three years until Friday, May 31, when the facility closed. Johnston said he has moved to a private home in Conyers. She said she stopped by on Monday out of curiosity to see if the facility had indeed been locked up. The Garden House was previously known as Azalea Gardens. Staff photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
CONYERS — The Garden House, an assisted living facility in Conyers, shut its doors Friday, about two weeks after employees found out they would have to find new homes for the residents.
Michael Meyers, who had been executive director of the facility for about the past year, said residents were sent letters dated May 1 notifying them that the facility would close. Even though his name was on the unsigned letter, Meyers said he and his staff didn’t see the letter until about mid-month. That’s when they learned that they would be out of jobs and would have to find new placements for the residents. The closing displaced about 50 residents and left about 30 people without jobs, he said.
Jannet Johnston, whose husband had lived at the facility, formerly known as Azalea Gardens, for almost three years, said she received a letter stating that the management company couldn’t meet the operational costs.
“Basically, Friday they came in and shut the building down,” said Johnston. “(Meyers) … did his level best to get everyone placed. He ran around town getting people to come in and talk to the residents and to their caregivers and give them options of where they could go.”
The letter attributed the closing to the “increasing cost of health care and the desire to care for people in the community that could not always pay the established rental rates... “
Meyers said staff size dwindled as some employees realized they would soon be out of work, but other employees stayed on and pitched in.
“There were some people there that they came in after they found out (about the closing) and worked every single day of the week just to make sure people were there,” said Meyers. “Even though there was a possibility that they wouldn’t get a paycheck.”
He said two employees in particular, Patrece Evans and Deka Usher, worked long hours every day to keep the facility operating and make sure residents found a new place to live.
Meyers also had praise for other local care providers who stepped in to help find placements for residents of The Garden House. Meyers said he had a lot of contacts in the area because of his previous work in hospice care, which helped when it came to finding placements. He said Daniel Edwards at Magnolia Assisted Living was particularly helpful and welcomed several former residents of The Garden House.
Johnston said Meyers deserves most of the credit for helping residents find new places to live.
“He needs to be commended for all the hard work,” she said.
Although he’s now faced with finding a new job, Meyers said he’s thankful he was able to locate new homes for the residents of The Garden House. He said he’s received support from family members of the former residents who have been calling to thank him and offering to write letters of recommendation.
“I really hate that it happened,” said Meyers. “I really hope the best for everybody, including my employees that stuck around. I hopefully will find another job.”