Operator of sober-living home jailed on drug charges

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The director of a sober-living home in Bakersfield is in jail on drug possession charges, and the house itself has an eviction notice on it. One local agency says they are not surprised and had already pulled its clients out of Robinson's House.

The facility was operated by Bobby Robinson, and Kern County court records show he was arrested on July 20 and faces a felony charge.

The house in the 800 block of R Street also has a notice on the door that the power has been turned off. Eyewitness News contacted the property management company, and they would only say the eviction was for "nonpayment."

"That's unfortunately not surprising," Dinah Marquez said. "Because we figured, where's the money going?"

Marquez supervises the "payee" office at the Fresno Diocese Catholic Charities office in Bakersfield. Her staff helps manage funds for clients, and at one time they had two people at Robinson's House.

Marquez says one was a "board and care" client, and the agency got worried when they noticed the client was also coming by their office to get food, and Robinson also showed up for donations of food.

"Why are you going back and getting food, when you're getting all this money from these clients?" she asks. Marquez says that was the first alert. Then, she said Robinson came to the Catholic Charities office to pick up a client's rent, but that man had just been arrested, and was in jail.

Robinson wasn't supposed to get rent in that circumstance. "When we asked for the money back, he refused to get it," Marquez said. "We actually contacted Social Security to come in and help, they got him to make payments, and we did get the money back."

Eyewitness News went to the house on Thursday, and a man inside wouldn't come out but said he had been asked by Robinson's brother to watch the house.

Eyewitness News was contacted by two viewers who are also concerned about Robinson's House, and they hope exposing the problems there will help steer people to better sober living facilities.

"It's kind of a black eye," Isaiah Crompton told Eyewitness News. He runs several sober living facilities. He was aware of Robinson's House, but not familiar with its current problems.

Crompton said many sober living facilities are reviewed by local officials.

"The closest thing to a licensing is certification, and that's through Kern County Mental Health," Crompton said. "We have to have insurance, you have to have policies and procedures, there has to be 24-hour supervision, and you have to have the proper amount of staff."

Crompton said the probation department also keeps a list of homes they've checked out. He said some operations have no certification, and while some of those are good, Crompton thinks it's risky to go to those homes.

Marquez said the experience with Robinson's House has convinced Catholic Charities to require that clients needing board and care or sober living only go to certified homes.

And, they also have staff go in person to see the homes and the operations.

"There are ones that are really good out there, and people are very concerned about their clients, and they feed them well," Marquez said. And, she says the good facilities also have programs for their residents. "You don't have to worry about those," she said.

But, she still advises making a personal check into conditions. "I'd go check it out," Marquez said.

Crompton also recommends going to look at sober living homes. "When you get there, ask questions," he said.

He also notes the mental health department has about 30 homes on their list, which can be found on their website. Crompton says those requirements are important.

"Everything needs to have standards," Crompton said. "Wherever you go, you need to have certain standards, and you have to adhere to those to be in accordance with the law."