The ups and downs of elevator problems

Elderly residents deal with unreliable elevators

08/06/2003

By Eileen Faxas / 11 News

HOUSTON There is an eight-story building in Houston that houses elderly people and has unreliable elevators that breakdown all the time -- year after year. Seeing what could be a dangerous problem, the 11 News Defenders went to meet with the tenants and dug up some interesting explanations.

Assuming you're young and able-bodied you could walk the stairs and reach the laundry room, library and snack store in the basement. But the eight-story building is the Houston Heights, where the residents are elderly and the elevators are unpredictable.

"Last thing I want to hear about is these damn elevators," says one resident. "I hear about them 14,000 times a day."

The Defenders keep hearing about them, too. "They're down more than they're up," says one resident's concerned niece, Gloria Gibbs.

11 News Defenders started getting calls and e-mails from people worried for their elderly relatives, many in wheelchairs and walkers. The only elevator that goes to the basement is permanently broken. And the only other elevator is touch and go.

"You never know if you're going to go up," says Gibbs. "If you're going to stop between floors or whatever."

Another resident says, "They've been having trouble everyday since I've been here." She says she understands the problems with the elevators have existed for three or four years.

Sounds like a long time to let a potential safety problem drag on. And while signs say elevator repairs have begun, residents say they've heard that song before. So we went to the Houston Heights' manager. "We're here to help them out, too, just have patience," says Hope Aguirre.

HUD tells the 11 News Defenders it took six months for the repair company to find parts and that the broken elevator will be running in two weeks.

And two weeks later it is still not running, so the Defenders alert the fire department. "If there is a fire emergency the more elevators we have working the better it is," says Houston Fire Inspector Steve Deal.

Or else, "They're just stuck," says Gibbs.

So the Defenders talked to HUD, the fire department, the city and the building manager. Everyone says the problem's common and about to get fixed. But last week an elderly woman fell down the stairs and got hurt trying to reach the laundry room.

The now "fixed" elevator keeps breaking down. And the other elevator is closed for repairs.

This elevator renovation is costing HUD and taxpayers $160,000.


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