Disabled residents living in a South End public housing complex that has been without elevator service for 14 straight days will be temporarily relocated to hotels if they choose, city officials said Wednesday.
Brian Jordan, a spokesperson for the Boston Housing Authority told GBH News that "residents who have mobility impairments" at the Ruth Barkley Apartments would be moved until the elevator is fixed.
The BHA also has offered "expedited permanent transfers" to units in other BHA buildings, but it is not clear when those moves will be made.
"We’re checking in continually with residents who are affected by the outage, especially residents with disabilities," Jordan said. The BHA also said they've offered to help residents with errands like trash pickup and mail delivery.
However, the city agency did not provide a timeframe for exactly when residents will be transferred or when repairs to the building's lone elevator would be made. In a statement on Friday a spokesperson described the elevator as old and not easily repaired.
City housing officials say BHA will pay for related moving costs and transportation needs for people who accept permanent transfers.
Several residents at the property say they are still unclear, and frustrated, about what's happening.
Lisandra Montes, 37, who uses a wheelchair and lives on the fifth floor, says she is waiting for information about where she will go. She says she's been told she would first be moved into a hotel and eventually could move into a second-floor apartment in another building in the same complex.
Montes says in recent days she's missed multiple doctors' appointments, including a visit to learn more about why her leg has been swelling. She also has missed getting to church.
"It's been two weeks without going to church, and I love going to church,'' she said. "It's an outlet for me to disconnect myself from everything in the world."
Robert Burres — who also relies on a wheelchair — says he received a letter from the Boston Housing Authority informing him he'd be housed at a Marriott Courtyard in South Boston. In recent months, he says, the frequent breakdowns of the elevator had come to rule his life.
“I am not going to take the trash out at 6 at night,” he said, “because I might not be able to get back in my building. That's how often it breaks down. So normally I would only go out once or twice a day for fear of not being able to get back in.”
On Wednesday Burres’ friend, Dawn Oates, carried his wheelchair from his apartment down the five flights of stairs. She then returned to bring down at attachment that would convert Burres' wheelchair into a hand-powered cycle — so he could bike to the hotel in South Boston. Burres followed by pulling himself down the stairs to the lobby, eager to get outside after two weeks and preferring not to wait or be carried by city workers.
Oates, a disability advocate who has been helping residents in the building since 2016, says the constant problems with the elevator denies people with disabilities freedom and independence. She said the lack of communication from city officials only deepens residents’ unhappiness.
“Invisibility is a huge problem in the disability community,” she said, “People feel unseen and unheard.”