While he struggled to adjust to his new surroundings, he said he was forced to fend for himself for basic supplies, jumping into a Dumpster behind a nearby drug store for soap and shampoo, and trudging to the turnpike overpass at Oakland Park Boulevard to ask motorists for spare change.
Early this year, he said the challenges of his new life finally consumed him, and he began to shut down. People would ask me questions and I wouldnt answer, he said. I was just going down.
He was taken to Florida Medical Center, where he stayed a week while doctors reviewed his medications and prescribed therapy.
For Dingley and other residents at Briarwood, the routine visits by police and rescue workers have been a way of life. In fact, in the past five years, the home has been the subject of more than 1,200 calls to 911. The reasons include 35 assaults, 21 missing people and nine people threatening suicide.
In the years before Dingley arrived, the home had already been repeatedly cited by regulators for not having enough staff to protect its residents, including for an episode in 2005 when a man said he was being threatened by another resident. The man never got the protection he needed and was later attacked by the other resident, who smashed a bottle over the mans head and then stomped on his chest, fracturing his ribs.
The violence is compounded by wider problems in Cannon Point. Well known to police, the enclave of ALFs draws people seeking to profit on the residents with mental illness.
Its a prime location for drug dealers, said Lauderhill Officer Thomas Merenda, who patrols the neighborhood. Briarwood Manor residents, they just have to walk across the street. They just come over and buy the crack.
Karen Lakritz, a leader with the FACT Team, a state-funded group that provides crisis care to people with mental illness, said the bigger issue is the exposure of vulnerable residents to unstable and dangerous environments.
The depression, the hopelessness, all of those things are going to get amplified, she said. Youre going to make everything worse.
WLRN-Miami Herald reporter Kenny Malone contributed to this report.