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DSHS closes Marysville adult family home after foreclosure

Shirley and Dean Wicka pack up to vacate the Beach House adult family home, where they once cared for four elderly residents. - Kirk Boxleitner
Shirley and Dean Wicka pack up to vacate the Beach House adult family home, where they once cared for four elderly residents.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — Conflicting accounts mark the closure of one adult family home in Marysville, as a neighboring adult family home owned by the same owners faces the prospect of a similar closure.

For Everett residents Dean and Shirley Wicka, owners of the now-closed "Beach House" and the still-open "Lakeviews Cedar House," it's a matter of greedy bankers denying them the opportunity to pass on their adult family homes to new owners.

For Katrina Glogowski, an attorney for JPMorgan Chase & Co. in this case, it's a matter of non-payment on a mortgage.

And for Pat Jennings, who works in residential care services for the state Department of Social and Health Services, it's a matter of adult family home residents at potential risk, and the deliberate speed with which a new owner can become licensed to operate such a home.

The Wickas

"We're only had one vacation in 22 years of running adult family homes," Dean Wicka said. "We've provided wonderful service during that time, so to be treated in the manner that we were just hurts our feelings."

The Wickas started their first Marysville-area adult family home in 1996, and touted the benefits of both the Beach House, located at 1355 Beach Ave., and the Lakeviews Cedar House, located at 1401 Cedar Ave., such as ease of wheelchair access and, with the Beach House, a lack of through traffic. Shirley Wicka produced paperwork showing that a registered nurse had planned to purchase the Beach House, before it was foreclosed on by Chase Bank, and explained that the same buyer is seeking to buy the Lakeviews Cedar House.

"We didn't want anything to change for our residents," Shirley Wicka said of the two men and two women formerly in their care, whose ages ranged from late 70s to 90s. "We didn't want them to have to move ever again."

The Wickas had previously managed larger retirement facilities, seeing them at the time as the only alternative to nursing homes. After they were introduced to the concept of adult family homes, Dean Wicka said that they "fell in love with it," in no small part because the personalized level of care differed so much from their experiences at that point, which consisted of managing more than 100 residents at each retirement facility.

"There was one resident, at one of the larger facilities, who got stuck in a bathtub for six hours, because it wasn't the day for her room to be cleaned, and she couldn't reach the emergency cord," Dean Wicka said. "When we saw this house, it looked like the type of home that our residents might have grown up in. The people who lived here loved it, and when they had to leave, they all cried, including the men."

The Wickas acknowledged that they'd fallen behind on their mortgage payments, and they appreciated that the state was able to place their former residents in new homes. However, they were still forced to lay off five staff members, and they still miss their former residents, whose families have kept in touch with them. It frustrated them that they were foreclosed on, after making progress toward selling their Beach House property to the prospective buyer who's still seeking to purchase their Lakeviews Cedar House property.

The Wickas were given three days to pack up their belongings and vacate the Beach House. The irony is that they've been trying to sell the Beach House and Lakeviews Cedar House in order to retire from the adult family home business. Dean Wicka's parents are in their mid-90s, and Shirley Wicka admitted that, in her mid-70s, she's slowing down as well.

"I loved coming here," said Barb Thomas, a Washington state certified long-term care ombudsman. "I never heard any complaints from the residents. They loved being here. They had caregivers here with eight, 11 and 14 years of experience. You almost never find that in adult family homes."

"It frosts me that we bail out these filthy rich companies with taxpayer money, and these same mortgage companies turn around and refuse to help the people whose tax money they got," Dean Wicka said. "It's a sin."

Chase Bank

"It's a matter of public record that the Wickas took out a mortgage on the property," Glogowski said of the Beach House. "It's a matter of public record that they failed to pay their mortgage, which resulted in foreclosure. Eviction proceedings took place, and they refused to participate when given the opportunity to do so."

When asked to confirm or deny Dean Wicka's allegation that Glogowski had said, "Chase does not want to be in the adult family home business," she said that she would be unable to confirm or deny the "verbatim quote," and additionally asserted that any such quote would not give "the full picture." She further noted that the Wickas were not residents of the property themselves.

DSHS

When a sheriff's deputy served notice of eviction to the Beach House, effective Aug. 3, DSHS determined that its residents were in "imminent danger" due to the Wicka's finances, according to Jennings.

"They'd had previous financial issues, so this was not their first time," Jennings said.

Jennings pointed out that, while a prospective buyer had indeed attempted to purchase the Beach House property, this would have been an entirely different thing from taking over the Wickas' adult family home business, or being deemed fit to care for their residents.

"You can't just transfer that ownership," Jennings said. "It's a separate process, that takes time and money to complete. It's my understanding that the prospective buyer of the Beach House, who's now looking to buy the Lakeviews Cedar House, was beginning to get educated, but still needed to apply for a license."

Jennings explained that, simply in order to apply for a license, one must first complete a certification training course, which is held periodically and is not always guaranteed to have open enrollment seats. Moreover, the Wickas' property would need to be inspected again, for its fitness as an adult family home, if and when a new owner acquired it.

Jennings also clarified the difference in DSHS's actions against the Beach House and against the Lakeviews Cedar House. Due in no small part to the eviction notice from the sheriff's deputy, DSHS imposed a summary suspension July 30 on the Wickas' license to operate the Beach House as an adult family home, whereas DSHS is currently engaging in a process of revocation against the adult family home license of the Wickas' Lakeviews Cedar House.

"With the first house, there was the issue of foreclosure," Jennings said. "With the second house, the Wickas can continue to operate while the process takes place, but they can't admit any new residents during those proceedings."

While the six current residents are free to remain at the Lakeviews Cedar House in the meantime, Jennings explained that DSHS will be speaking with the residents, their families and their legal representatives about the proceedings, and about their own options. DSHS will also conduct unannounced safety checks on the residents. She added that the Wickas have asked for an independent administrative hearing, as is their right.

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