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UPDATE: Mayor, councillor say help available to stranded residents of OCH building

Mayor Jim Watson and City Councillor Mathieu Fleury say help is available to residents of 181 Bruyere Street, an Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) building for seniors, whose residents have been without an elevator for nearly a week.

Residents of the building say they've been stuck in their apartments without clean laundry or groceries because the only elevator in their building, at 181 Bruyere Street, has been out-of-service since Aug. 27.

Fleury, the councillor for Rideau Vanier, says he understands that OCH workers have been on site helping residents of the building.

"We are told that OCH staff were on site on Wednesday and had followed up every day, but that's only what I'm told from staff," he said. "If we were on site it's important to say that and if we weren't on site, then there's an issue."

Stephane Giguere, chief executive officer of OCH, says the part of the elevator that needs to be replaced is old, and it's for the safety of the residents that the elevator has been closed.  He says the elevator could be fixed by Tuesday, but says that's not a guaranteed timeline.  The residents of the building say that provides little comfort to them considering how long they've waited to leave their homes.

One 65-year-old woman needs an electric wheelchair to get around and says she was out for treatment for bone cancer at the time the elevator initially broke down.

"Thank God I went out that day, otherwise I'd be stranded," she said, adding that she has two more appointments this week and says she's concerned she won't be able to get there.  She says she hasn’t had clean laundry all week thanks to the broken elevator.

She says she's been forcing herself to take the stairs, but that's been taking a toll on her body as she's not totally mobile with arthritis, cancer, and peripheral neuropathy.

"My back is starting to give out on me.  I get real spasms in my back," she said, adding that this is the third time the elevator has gone down in the five years she's lived in the building.

"If I could move out of here tomorrow I would," she said.

She says another woman who lives on the second floor of the building missed an appointment for chemotherapy because of the elevator outage.

Another man who lives on the fourth floor of the building and also uses a wheelchair says he was stuck in his home without food because of the elevator shut-down.  He says he called OCH to ask for assistance and got a bizarre response.

"They said 'If you're that stuck, phone the fire department. They're going to take you down.' That's what they told me and that's what I did," he said. "The fire department told me, 'You were very badly informed.' "

He says the fire department contacted the Salvation Army who contacted the Red Cross who were eventually able to bring him some groceries, but other residents in the building who are in similar situations say they haven't been contacted or provided with groceries.

All residents of the building interviewed by CFRA spoke on the condition their names would not be published.

Fleury says although maintenance issues are inevitable in any building, it's not adequate to make residents wait nearly a week for elevator service.

Watson says help has been offered to residents, but some are refusing to accept what's being offered including grocery pick up.

He says OCH is aware of his interest in this case and have capital budget to focus on things like elevator repairs.

"With old buildings comes, unfortunately, some breakdowns so we have to try to minimize those but we can never eliminate an elevator stopping," he said. "Elevators in private sector buildings shut down from time to time as well."

He says OCH has a major plan for refurbishing the elevators in all of its buildings.

"As we have aging buildings, we obviously have aging elevators," he said. "But it's important that the safety of our tenants is ensured first."

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