A group of neighbors met Paul Bolder at his door as he was coming home from church on Sunday, January 25, 2009. They handed Bolder a Truman Medical Center wristband printed with the name of a recently discharged patient: Christopher Scott. The 51-year-old man had been found that morning, frozen to death, on the front lawn of a house near 31st Street and Monroe.
Scott was a lifelong friend of Bolder's. A brain injury had left the former handyman incapable of working for Bolder's construction business, as he had often done in the past. Eight months earlier, Bolder had helped move Scott into the St. Regis Apartments, a building for low-income residents at the northeast corner of Linwood and the Paseo. Rents there are heavily subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Bolder helped his friend sign up for Social Security checks and open a bank account, then filled his cabinets at the St. Regis with food donated by Metropolitan Lutheran Ministries.
A caseworker from MLM tells The Pitch that he knew Scott needed more supervision than the St. Regis could offer as an independent living facility. But Scott liked the St. Regis, so the caseworker stopped trying to move him elsewhere. It isn't his job to manage clients long-term, he says. When Scott moved into Apartment 310 of the St. Regis in May 2008, the MLM caseworker closed his file.
The Friday before his death, Scott dropped by Bolder's home, near 29th Street and Norton. He told Bolder that he'd been kicked out of the St. Regis and had his keys confiscated. He didn't understand why. He asked Bolder to go with him the following Monday to talk with Michelle McCray, the building's manager. At the very least, Scott figured, he could try to retrieve his belongings. Everything he owned was still locked inside 310.
Bolder agreed to accompany his friend. Meanwhile, he knew that Scott had stayed before with a friend in the neighborhood around the St. Regis, so he wasn't worried. "I always thought he was coming back," Bolder says.
But neighbors discovered Scott's frozen body early Sunday morning. "It was bitter cold," Bolder recalls. "He had warm clothes on, but it was well below zero for three days."
Scott's cause of death was ruled as "environmental hypothermia" by the Jackson County Medical Examiner. His body lay unclaimed in the morgue for nearly a month as workers there attempted to find his relatives. The hospital ID bracelet that he was wearing when he died was from a recent visit that Scott had made to get treatment for an infected cut on his hand.
Bolder has kept copies of Scott's lease agreement from Knudson Housing Partners XXIII Ltd., the HUD-contracted manager of the St. Regis, that was signed by McCray. On it, Scott had clearly printed Bolder's name and phone number for his emergency contact. But Bolder says no one from the St. Regis ever called him. The agreement states that a tenant can't be kicked out "except for a violation of the lease or other good cause," and that the manager must provide a tenant with written notice of the violation before terminating the lease. Bolder says Scott never received such a notice. HUD's records show that as of August 2008, the St. Regis classified him as a "move out." There is no record of his eviction at the Jackson County Courthouse.
"You kick him out in the cold — that's an emergency," Bolder says. "I never did get an explanation. He was in a home of his own. He should have never ended up on the street. She [McCray] shouldn't run a dog kennel, let alone someplace where people need assistance."