Update: This story is being made into a feature-length film, If We Left.
A California nursing home that shuttered last fall lost most of its staff, leaving its residents behind, except for two people — cook Maurice Rowland, and janitor Miguel Alvarez.
“There was about 16 residents left behind, and we had a conversation in the kitchen, ‘What are we going to do?’” Rowland says on StoryCorps.
“If we left, they wouldn’t have nobody,” 34-year-old Alvarez said. “We were just the cook and the janitor.”
The team spent several days providing round-the-clock care for elderly patients, doling out medication, bathing, feeding, and looking after them.
“I just couldn’t see myself going home,” said Rowland.
The team stayed until the local fire department and sheriff took over Valley Springs Manor nursing home, and their actions eventually led to legislation in California known as the Residential Care for the Elderly Reform Act of 2014, which protects nursing home residents from being abandoned in the case of a shutdown.
“Even though they [weren’t] our family, they were kind of like our family for that short period of time,” said Alvarez.