BOSTON (WHDH) - Disabled residents in a Boston public housing complex say they were trapped in their apartments for 15 days because of a broken elevator.
7 Investigates found elevator emergencies are cause for concern across the city.
“It’s been going on for so long. It’s not like a today thing or a yesterday thing, it’s been a long term thing,” said Lisandre Montes.
Montes lives on the fifth floor of the Ruth Lillian Barkley building in the South End.
For more than two weeks, the building’s elevator was out of order.
Montes is confined to a wheelchair. So, without a working elevator, she can’t leave her apartment.
“I see it as a disrespect to those who are in need because they’re thinking of themselves but they’re not thinking of those who really need it,” Montes said.
Bob Burress, who is also disabled, feels his home is now a prison.
“This has been very challenging,” he said. “…I just try to deal with my day and take it one day at a time.”
Burress’ day was interrupted on Sept. 14 when the elevator stopped working.
The Boston Housing Authority (BHA), which manages the building, said they couldn’t get the elevator fixed until Sept. 28.
“This is not a game,” Montes said. “There’s other people that can just run the stairs, but what happens to those like myself and my neighbor that can’t?”
7 Investigates found the elevator didn’t pass its inspection in October, 2022.
The elevator phone was broken and there were concerns that the doors wouldn’t properly close during a fire. The Boston Housing Authority says both issues have been fixed, although the doors still need to be reinspected.
One disability advocate says the 33-year-old elevator has a long history of problems.
“I have documentation of at least 41 times the elevator has been down since January 1 of this year,” said advocate Dawn Oates.
7 Investigates also found the state has been investigating the 22-unit complex, calling the elevator issue a “life-safety hazard.”
“It’s a civil right,” said Bill Henning, the director of the Boston Center of Independent Living. “It’s required under federal fair housing law — state fair housing. It’s also a health issue. It’s an integrity issue.”
Boston’s city council president says elevator issues in other public housing buildings also need to be addressed.
“It’s a problem throughout the BHA development,” said City Council President Ed Flynn.
“We must provide them with a safe elevator system that works,” Flynn said.
The Boston Housing Authority tells 7 Investigates that a lack of federal funding has hampered its ability to make repairs.
“If they knew what it was like, then they would probably find the resources to help,” Burress said.
The BHA has made $100,000 available for short-term repairs at the Ruth Barkley development and plans to either upgrade or replace the elevator over the next few years.
“It would really mean the world to me if I had an elevator that would work,” Montes said. “Then, I could just go out for a couple of hours and have the knowledge that I can come right back up.”
The city of Boston says they will be working with the BHA to find out how many elevators need to be fixed and the amount of funding it is going to take to fix the elevators to ensure every Bostonian has the quality of life they deserve.
(Copyright (c) 2023 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)