BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Families are still reeling from a key decision made by People Inc. to close two group homes in the Southtowns.

One family tells News 4 they are now deeply concerned about their loved one, who lives in one of those homes and they’re not sure what they’ll do next.

The Catalano family of Angola says this is a matter of life or death. They’re hoping People Inc. reverses course and keeps a group home in Angola open.

“And, nobody is hearing us, they’re ignoring the fact that there is a problem here and this problem needs to be addressed or my son is going to die,” said Barbara Catalano, James Catalano’s mother.

Barbara and her daughter, Annemarie Tubinis, are infuriated by the decision from People Inc. to close the two group homes in Angola and Boston.

“Totally in shock, the state approved this closure,” Barbara said.

Barbara says her son, James, has been in the Angola group home for 23 years and that he suffers from a number of medical issues like schizophrenia. The Catalanos say this small setting has been crucial in keeping him stable.

“There’s no possible solution that’s going to fit my brother’s psychological and medical needs, it needs to be a three-bedroom, small home because it’s what’s best for James,” Tubinis said.

However, the Catalanos say residents in the Angola group home need to be out by Jan.15 and that People Inc. has proposed transferring James to a home with more residents, possibly increasing his risk of infection.

People Inc. says in total, 12 people will be impacted and that the non-profit has made numerous attempts to retain workers like raising starting pay. People Inc. has not said when the group home in Boston will close. The Catalanos are hoping to get the attention of state lawmakers in hopes of improving the residential care industry.

“When is the state going to wake up and look at the problem and solve the crisis because group homes are closing left and right and now this could cost my son’s life and I am totally disgusted with what’s going on in this state,” Barbara said. “You call these senators, you call the assemblymen and they totally disregard you, they send you a letter ‘thank you for contacting me.’ I don’t want to contact you, I want you to do something and you do it now.”

The Catalanos deeply believe that healthcare workers need to have more competitive wages.

“I’ve watched and sat across a person at the table at Jimmy’s table where his jaw is swollen out and he doesn’t have enough money to go to the dentist and I’ve watched a person die in a group home, one of the workers and he ended up dying because he didn’t have enough money to go to the doctor,” Barbara said.

A spokesperson for the state’s Office of People With Developmental Disabilities issued the follow statement regarding the group home closures:

“We are aware of People Inc.’s decision to close their IRA in Angola due to staffing and that they have communicated a transition plan with residents’ family members to ensure that opportunities are provided as close to the family’s home as possible. Group home closures are disruptive to people’s lives and this step is only considered when other efforts to achieve appropriate staffing levels have been exhausted.”

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Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.