CLINTON, Ill. (WCIA) – Leaders at the DeWitt County Housing Authority promise they’re doing everything they can to keep their outdated elevators running, but one tenant says it’s not enough for people with disabilities.
For months, Caleb Zook says broken elevators have gotten in the way of his independence. He’s in a wheelchair on the fifth floor of his Clinton apartment building.
“You’ve got multiple people that can’t walk downstairs on upper floors,” Zook said.
Back in December, Zook told WCIA he was stuck in his apartment for three days – including Christmas and his birthday. Both elevators were out of service, leaving him no way to get out on his own. Since then, he says he’s faced the same problem on several occasions, though for shorter lengths of time.
Management says their hands are tied, for now.
“It seems to always go down when I have something planned,” Zook said.
The elevators at Nixon Manor have been in and out of service for months.
“We’re doing everything we possibly can,” DeWitt County Housing Authority Executive Director Terrill Garland said.
Garland says one of the decades-old elevators is permanently out of order.
“According to our elevator company, it just cannot be fixed. We’ve known that for a few months,” she said.
The second elevator occasionally breaks down for a few hours, which Zook says limits his independence, and some of his neighbors who also have disabilities or are seniors.
“I guess I can answer that in the only way I know how and that is – we have a new contract. We are getting brand new elevators to help them with that quality of life they feel that they don’t have now,” Garland said.
But, she says the soonest crews can get started is August, finishing the new elevators by the end of the year. In the meantime, Zook has asked to move from the top floor to the first level.
“And they keep saying they’ll prepare me a list of assisted living facilities to move into if I feel uncomfortable living here,” Zook said. “I don’t feel uncomfortable living here, I feel uncomfortable on the fifth floor.”
Zook says he feels like he’s being “pushed out,” but Garland says that’s not management’s intention. They already have a limited number of accessible units – and they’re all full.
“We offered our services through our outreach programs to help him. That if he wanted to get into a disabled environment that we would help him find [one],” Garland said.
Rent at Nixon Manor is set by income, and Zook says he can’t afford to live anywhere else. Garland says community members often step in and help with getting necessities like groceries and medication, but Zook doesn’t want to rely on others.
“I think it just comes with high rise living. We are not an elderly or disabled designated housing authority,” Garland said.
Garland wants to assure tenants they have a way out when both elevators are down. She says they can call 9-1-1 for lift assistance, but only in emergencies.
“They’ve all been willing and offer to do lift assistance. So if you need out of the building, they’re for us and they’re cooperating with us,” she said.
Garland says the Housing Authority wants to hear from Nixon Manor residents about their concerns and frustrations with the elevators. They’ve all been invited to a meeting on March 30 at 2 p.m. in the building’s community room. She says management will be available to answer questions.