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Disabled Portland Hotel residents left stranded without elevator

03/08/2015 09:25 EDT | Updated 05/08/2015 05:59 EDT
A 57-year-old quadriplegic man is among 20 Vancouver residents with mobility issues, struggling to get by without an elevator in the Portland Hotel social housing facility.

The hotel in the city's Downtown Eastside has nine floors and houses about 100 people, a third of whom have mobility impairment. But the building's only elevator has been broken for more than a week.

"I can't get to work, I can't grab a shower on the first floor, the only place with a wheel-in shower for the wheelchair," said John, who who didn't wish to give his last name.

"I feel secluded from the world for sure... There's nowhere to go."

John, who lives on the second floor, uses a wheelchair to get around since a fall 30 years ago left him quadriplegic.

Since the elevator stopped working on Feb. 26, he said, he hasn't been able to leave his apartment at all and is out hundreds of dollars because he couldn't get to work.

"Me, personally, I don't know what to do anymore at all... other than sit here and let the time pass by."

Another resident, Jacques Ouellet, told the CBC he lives on the top floor and it can take him 20 minutes to get down the stairs — and an hour to get up them.

"It's very tough for me... very hard... It should have been fixed by now," said Ouellet, who usually uses a walker to help him get around.

Some residents, unable to leave their apartments, are even starting to run low on groceries.

Portland Hotel Society frustrated

Ted Bruce, interim executive director of the Portland Hotel Society, which runs the building, says the organization is frustrated by the wait time to get the elevator fixed, which he has heard is due to a delay getting parts.

"They have explained to us it's a shipping problem for them, a delivery problem. Certainly response time has not been what we like to see."

Otis United Technologies, the elevator repair company, said in a statement: "We are working as quickly as possible to address the repair. Safety is always a top priority. We expect to have the elevator operational soon."

The majority of the Portland Hotel Society's funding comes from the provincial government. In a statement, BC Housing acknowledges it is aware of the problem.

"Additional staff have been added for the afternoon and evening shifts to help residents and ensure they are receiving meals and medication," reads the statement.

It also noted BC Housing and the PHS are working together to ensure a permanent solution.

But the PHS estimates a second elevator could cost close to $1 million. As for John, he hopes something can be sorted out, soon.

"I can't get any fresh air, any sunshine. It's not a lot of fun."

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