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Congresswoman Debbie Dingell

Representing the 12th District of Michigan

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MLive: Congresswoman calls for temporary evacuation of troubled Ypsilanti senior tower

August 13, 2016
In The News

YPSILANTI, MI - Congresswoman Debbie Dingell is calling for the temporary evacuation of a troubled senior housing tower where broken elevators are creating unsafe conditions.

In an Aug. 12 letter to Michigan State Housing Development Authority Executive Director Kevin Elsenheimer, Dingell wrote that broken elevators at the 11-story complex are preventing residents from receiving medical care, and creating a difficult obstacle for paramedics. It's also causing problems for Meals on Wheels and caretakers who are unable to reach patients, Dingell wrote. Some residents haven't been bathed in a week.

The situation "resulted in great hardship and at times dangerous conditions" to the complex's 170 residents, many of whom are elderly, disabled, and receiving Section 8 assistance, Dingell wrote.

"The reports are deeply concerning and could result in a tragedy if unaddressed," Dingell said of Town Centre Plaza, which is at 401 W. Michigan Ave. in downtown Ypsilanti.

She added that her office is also receiving complaints of a cockroach and bed bug infestation. Furniture has been disposed of, and some residents are sleeping on the floor, Dingell wrote. On Sunday, she said her office was alerted to the issue last week by Ypsilanti Mayor Amanda Edmonds.

MSHDA administers federal funds for the Section 8 program in place at Town Centre. It also holds the building's loan and is liable for the property's condition.

In a Saturday email to The Ann Arbor News, MSHDA Communications Director Katie Bach downplayed the situation's seriousness, and only said it is resulting in "extra congestion and longer wait times." She said the elevator will be repaired within several days.

"According to management, staff members have been doing all they can to accommodate residents by delivering items to their apartments, providing extra seating for the extended wait times and bottled water among other things to help alleviate the elevator inconvenience," Bach said.

She added that only one elevator was out of service on Saturday, but officials say the functioning elevator is only a two-person elevator that can't support emergency personnel and a medical gurney.

Dingell said on Sunday that she is upset by MSHDA's comment that the situation is only an inconvenience, and added "the living conditions are not decent, safe, or sanitary."

"If there's a medical situation and EMS can't get a gurney to someone, I don't call that an inconvenience, I call it a real problem," she said. "I plan to stay in close contact with MSHDA this week to ensure that an action plan is being developed."

On Sunday, Dingell said she had been in touch with MSHDA's director over the weekend, and he didn't appear to have accurate information about the situation. He was told the elevators were working, but Dingell's staff had visited the site and found both elevators weren't working.

"In the meantime, in addition to hoping that you are protecting the citizens who have no other place to live, I ask that the landlord be encouraged to temporarily relocate residents of Town Centre Plaza who have faced serious hardship because of the disrepair of the elevators," Dingell wrote in the letter. "Such a step will ensure that the safety and mobility of residents is provided for while repairs are taking place."

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