Tenants with disabilities raise concerns for safety after elevator breaks down

Published: Jun. 18, 2019 at 9:41 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Those living with disabilities at the Shockoe Hill apartments in Richmond are raising concerns for their safety after the elevator in building two broke down and had been out of service a few times the past couple of weeks.

Some of the residents say they want to be moved to the first floor so they won’t be trapped.

Tuesday, the elevator was working fine, but tenants’ complaints are now on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s radar. NBC12′s Diane Walker got assurances from HUD that they are being looked into. The spokesperson said that she had just gotten off the phone with the management company overseeing the senior and low income housing subsidized by HUD.

Archer Witcher says he has lived at the complex three or four years.

“I can’t climb those steps. I only have one leg. I don’t know how I’m going to get up here,” Witcher said.

When the elevator breaks, they all say they’re stuck in place whether that’s on the second floor or outside. Witcher said that he would be determined to find a way out.

"I’m going to slide down the steps. I’m going out. I’m going to try anyway,” Witcher said.

It’s troubling for tenants and their family who worry, should an emergency happen and the only elevator serving the disabled isn’t working. Tenant Jetuan Epps-McGrant who uses a walker and has a progressive lung disease.

“I’m concerned about safety. Suppose there’s a fire. How are we going to get out?” Epps-McGrant said.

We took that concern and others straight to the property manager, Manny Stern. Stern says they can’t move everyone to the first floor but adds that tenants’ safety is their top concern. He says they have done a lot of work at Shockoe Hill apartments and are proud of the improvements. He said residents who were afraid at one time now, move about with a sense of security.

NBC12 checked the property’s inspection scores with HUD and found that they have been in the high 90′s for the past several years. HUD says the property is well-kept and well taken care of but acknowledges that even with inspections some things may go unnoticed.

Robert Cox says he hasn’t been able to use his shower because there are no grab bars in his bathroom.

“I ain’t got nothing to hold. I always have to hold myself and then wash myself with one hand,” Cox

He says Shockoe Hill has known about his problem for a year and that’s how long he has gone without a shower.

"Ma’am, I’m doing the best I can. Every day I got to go in there and take a bird bath. Put my feet over in the tub. Even the floor gets a little wet. But I do the best I can,” Cox said.

HUD is aware now and says the tenant needs to fill out a request for reasonable accommodation but apparently hasn’t done that. Cox and the complex managers are currently locked in litigation over other issues.

In the meantime, the manager says each work order request gets a response and the elevator problems were addressed immediately.

HUD says it wants tenants to be safe and secure. If a tenant doesn’t feel their complaint is being handled properly, they can call HUD or 1-888-466-5577 to reach Navigate Affordable Housing Partners, a separate agency that advocates for HUD tenants.

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