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Tony's Take

Messenger: More complaints file in from former residents of troubled ‘sober homes’

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Marvin Shelton's office

This is one of the offices where Marvin Shelton says he provides "psychiatric care." He is not a psychiatrist. This office is connected to a car wash in Hazelwood.

Jerrad Holley fell for what he now calls Marvin Shelton’s con.

Shelton pitches himself as a reverend and a therapist. On LinkedIn, he claims several state medical credentials. His name doesn’t show up on a search for any licenses in the state Division of Professional Registration database. He and his business partner, Stacey Smith, run a series of mostly rundown homes in the city and the county that they call “The Community Counseling and Housing Services.” They take in people with drug addictions, alcoholics, people with mental illness and even adults on the autism spectrum, collect their disability checks, charge $500 or more for rent, and promise services that a series of former residents have told me in the past year never come.

Holley was being treated at Southeast Missouri Behavioral Health in Farmington for drug addiction.

“He made it out to be this good program,” Holley says of Shelton, who recruited him for his “sober homes” when Holley left Southeast Missouri Behavioral Health. “In reality, they’re just taking people’s money.”

Holley went into Shelton’s program last December, right around the time I started writing of Shelton’s propensity to not pay heating and air conditioning bills, and to charge ridiculous fees to poor people living off of disability checks and Medicaid. Over the past year, Holley lived at several of Shelton’s homes, on Eagle Drive in St. Louis County, and on Shepley and Tappin drives and Euclid Street in the city.

Most of the homes still have people crammed in, he says, including in basements that Holley suspects don’t meet any fire codes. The house on Euclid had a fire a few weeks back. In some ways, Holley was one of the lucky ones. He did work for Shelton and Smith, odd jobs around the house, deliveries, yard work, collecting medications, so that he didn’t have to pay rent for much of the time he was there.

That gave him access to some of the documents Shelton uses to run the facilities. Holley showed me pictures of a database that shows the collections of various residents’ food stamp cards from the state. Shelton takes them, Holley says, and then distributes portions of the $194 per month as allowances to the residents. Many don’t get their full amount back, Holley said.

Shelton’s alleged counseling office called CelebrationPointe, is connected to a car wash on Howdershell Drive in north St. Louis County. Holley would work there sometimes, collecting medication from the various residents, or driving to the various houses to pick it up. Shelton keeps it all in a big bin there, he says. Various former residents have complained to me that they often didn’t have access to their medications while living in one of Shelton’s homes.

Holley finally left in September and lives with his parents in St. Francois County.

“I am so glad to be out of that program,” Holley told me, sitting on a bench outside a White Castle in Festus. “It was breaking me.”

Shelton has not returned numerous phone calls seeking comment about his facilities.

The amazing thing is that after so many former residents have complained about Shelton and Smith, and many local hospital facilities have stopped sending patients there, that they are still able to find people for their homes. Holley says most of the people he knew in the various homes — about 20 when he left a month ago — came from Southeast Missouri Behavioral Health or SSM DePaul Health Center in Bridgeton.

Brandy Swindle was referred to Shelton by DePaul, she says. She suffers from bipolar disorder and lives on disability payments. She ended up at Shelton’s home on Eagle Drive, along with three adults living on the autism spectrum, she said. None of them received much in the way of care, but Shelton took $900 a month directly from her disability checks, she says. “I don’t know where that money went,” she says.

SSM Communications Manager Stephanie Zoller Mueller says that DePaul no longer makes referrals to Shelton’s homes and hasn’t in several months.

Swindle’s story of how she ended up in one of Shelton’s homes is like so many others.

“I had nowhere to go,” she says.

Now she’s out. Holley picked her up a couple of weeks ago, another former resident happy to be gone but no better for her nine months of paying Shelton rent for what Holley calls a “flophouse.”

“I’m very glad I got out of there,” Swindle says. “I really think he should be shut down.”

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