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Disabled residents say they're physically and financially trapped in subsidized housing nightmare

Posted at 10:17 PM, Aug 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-24 00:42:14-04

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DENVER -- A troubling Contact7 follow up to a story from earlier this summer. Contact7 told you about the broken elevators and the all-but trapped disabled residents at Denver's Golden Spike apartments. More residents have reached out, saying the problems aren't fixed and tenants are both physically and financially trapped inside.

Sharon Wheeler, a Golden Spike apartment resident, will tell you she's had happier times. But this is life now and she does her best to live day-to-day. 

"Yeah it’s hard. I get depressed. Yeah its hard on me,” said Wheeler. “When you're on a fixed income, I’m on disability."

Like so many living with disabilities and paying subsidized rent at that Denver area apartment complex, a long-time occurring and seemingly worsening elevator issue has made things harder.

Take it from Andrea Mitchell, who moved in two years ago.

"When we moved in, they told us they were having elevator troubles and that it would be fixed and they had to send all the way to China for some part," said Mitchell.

If you’re wheelchair-bound like Wheeler or Doug Moore, also a Golden Spike resident, things don't particularly look that much better. 

"I was a prisoner in a building I pay rent for. I couldn't go anywhere," said Moore.

Because one elevator is permanently down, the other is overused. Moore told Contact7 that in the span of a month, the only working elevator broke down eight times, basically trapping many in their rooms. Denver Fire Department Spokesperson Greg Pixley told Contact7 firefighters were called to make an elevator rescue four times in a span of roughly four weeks between July and August.

A spokesperson for Catholic Charities, the owner of the complex, said when they acquired the building two years ago it was discovered the pre-1974 elevators were past their lifespan and overdue for repairs. They began maintenance, but soon realized a full replacement was necessary. They are in the process of replacing both elevators and hired a company, Kone, to do so more than a year ago. The company tells us it’s a complex process involving dated equipment that requires specific engineering for an older building.

Until the elevators are replaced, the only way out sometimes for Moore?

“The fire escape. I mean, those are the only stairs on the building on the north and south end."

After seven years he thinks about moving, but once again feels trapped.

"The housing out here is crazy. Everywhere I tried to apply to, they either wouldn't accept my application or they've got a three to five year waiting list and I can't live homeless," said Moore.

Alison Butler with Disability Law Colorado agrees with Moore.

"A lot of people with disabilities are on the verge of homelessness because there's so few places for them to go," said Butler. "Literally not enough accessible housing, I think that they're needs are overlooked."

So the residents at Golden Spike will just have to wait for other doors to open, knowing they deserved better.

"We should be living just as decent as everybody else," said Mitchell.