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Apartment elevator issue troubles family with scooter-bound mother

Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 5:30 PM EDT
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NILES, Mich. (WNDU) - A Berrien County family hopes to get a clearer timetable as to when an apartment elevator will be fixed for 75-year-old Betty Gentry, whose scooter does not fit in the current working elevator at the Niles Housing Commission complex.

“[My mom] lives on the fourth floor, and her elevator has been broke since the first of January,” explained Lori Richardson, Betty’s daughter.

The apartment’s property management and the Niles Community Development Department say while it can be a tight fit, wheelchairs do indeed fit - and that means the elevator is ADA-compliant.

“Yes, the wheelchair does fit, so [my mom’s] on oxygen. And for her to scoot down to the elevator all by herself and get in the elevator and go downstairs, it’s very tiresome. She has a hard time with it because of her being on oxygen,” Lori explained.

Lori says her mom’s scooter is her main way of running to the store or library.

“But now she can’t. So that’s an issue. It’s made her depressed. It’s made her very - you know, she’s just not happy with her life because of this. And the elevator. I mean, it’s been down since January. This is unacceptable,” added Lori.

The Niles Community Development Department says that since the apartment building is public housing and receives federal funding, the process for completing a half-million dollar repair on the other elevator, the one Betty’s scooter fits in, can take longer. The Niles official added they have to work within HUD guidelines. Plus the broken elevator is quite old and needs to be modernized since its old parts are hard to find and repair.

“I understand that it is an old elevator, it’s an old building. But if your tenants are paying their money to live in this apartment complex, they expect it to be up and working standard in order,” Lori said. “My mom’s paying her rent. She’s never missed a payment. She’s always on time. So I guess my thing is, if she’s paying her rent, I expect it to be a certain quality of life for her to live there.”

The property management company says Betty Gentry was offered to have her scooter stored in a room across from the main office on the first floor. Lori said she and her mother were concerned the scooter might be stolen.

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