EAST PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND -- Teenage girls were sleeping on mattresses in makeshift rooms in the basement. Dozens of cats and dogs roamed in the cluttered house, where feces and food collected on the floor and furniture.
An anonymous tip Friday morning about a van of puppies dropped off at the small bungalow in Riverside led city officials to find this scene at 26 Floyd Avenue.
They seized more than 40 animals and called the state Department of Children, Youth and Families about the girls living in uninhabitable conditions.
The homeowner Rachel Duarte (aka Rachel Gouveia), 40, was arrested after police say she attacked officers and the building inspector condemning the house.
“It was deplorable,” said City Councilman Brian Faria, of Ward 4, as he showed photos of disheveled rooms inside the house and described what he and other city officials found.
A child-welfare caseworker had visited the house on Thursday to assess the situation of a 17-year-old girl staying there, said DCYF spokeswoman Kerri White. The girl wasn’t a foster placement, but was in a private living arrangement between her legal guardian and the family at Floyd Avenue, White said.
White declined to comment on what the caseworker saw at the house, including where the girl was sleeping. The caseworker was going to write up a final report about her findings, and “we were not going to approve the placement,” White said.
There was no explanation about why the girl was allowed to remain in the house in the meantime.
That was the question on the mind of Al Quattrucci, the city’s building inspector for 30 years. He condemned the house after walking through it and finding it unlivable. He said the stench of urine and waste in the house was so thick that “if you had a cold you could smell it.”
He said the homeowner, Rachel Duarte (aka Rachel Gouveia), 40, told him that DCYF had certified her to get foster children, but then tried to stop him from going into the basement to see where they were living. Quattrucci went ahead and found dark, makeshift rooms with mattresses on the floor, no windows, no exits, no smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors.
“If you have a fire, you’re dead,” he said.
A 17-year-old girl on one mattress told him that she was a foster child, he said. Another teenage girl was staying on the other mattress, he said. (White said neither were foster children.)
“They were staying in a rotten cellar like a rat,” Quattrucci said. He accosted the DCYF caseworker, who’d visited there Thursday night. “I told her to her face — you should be fired,” he said.
Faria said the filthy conditions of the home were obvious as soon as they opened the front door. “I find it very disconcerting that a DCYF official was here last night and didn’t notice,” he said.
White said that Duarte had been licensed as a foster parent from 2014 to 2015 and had passed all of the inspections at the time. The agency is now investigating this case, White said, declining further comment.
Along with removing the teenage girls, the police seized 20 dogs, 22 cats, a bearded dragon and a pet mouse.
Quattrucci said Duarte tried to attack him and police when he told her he was condemning the house, but an officer “picked her up and dropped her like a missile in the snowbank.”
She was charged with simple assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. She was arraigned at District Court on Friday and released.
Duarte was not available for comment. The house was boarded up by the city.
(Providence Journal - January 13, 2018)