PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Sellwood Center apartments have been without elevators since a fire broke out last Tuesday, confining many residents with limited mobility to their homes.
More than a week later, a nonprofit shared on Wednesday that one of the building’s two elevators has resumed operation. Tenants previously needed to trek up and down the building’s eight floors — if they chose to at all.
“I made it down the one time and wasn’t going to attempt to go up because even coming down that many flights caused me a lot of pain the following two days,” resident Amy Smith said.
Smith lives on the seventh floor and says she is staying with family in Oregon City until the building is fixed. She told KOIN 6 that some neighbors have been put up at hotels and one woman did everything she could to get to a much-needed doctor’s appointment.
“One of the ladies came down with someone carrying her wheelchair while she worked her way down on her rump to get down to the main floor from the eighth floor,” Smith said.
This comes after a small fire caused the fire-suppression sprinklers to go off, resulting in flooding and both elevators malfunctioning on Oct. 10. Neighbors told KOIN 6 the building is filled with low-income residents, most of whom are older and have limited mobility. Some are confined to walkers and wheelchairs, unable to use the stairs or leave their floors.
Residents say they tried to power through even with the physical toll.
“I got in a motorcycle accident and my leg, I can’t go up-down. I get upstairs, I feel like I don’t want to go outside,” resident Mahdi Hajinoor said.
The nonprofit overseeing the property, Home Forward, confirmed Otis Elevator Company is working on repairs.
Otis representative Ray Hernandez released a statement, saying, “We understand the inconvenience experienced by residents of the Sellwood Center Apartments as a result of a recent water-related incident that caused extensive damage to several elevator components. In addition to securing the necessary parts for repairs, we continue to be on-site and are committed to getting the elevators back in service as quickly as possible. There is nothing more important to Otis than the safety of our customers, colleagues and the riding public.”
Home Forward also moved some tenants to hotels and offered food deliveries for those who stayed.
“I’m really grateful for the management that is stepping up and helping the residents,” Smith said.
However, others tell KOIN 6 they’re frustrated and would’ve liked to see more done.
“From 3 o’clock on, it went on, I went out at six and our whole floor was flooded. Elevator had 30 inches of water in it, both of them. I thought it was a mirage at first,” resident Samuel Hill said. “They could’ve had a better situation on how to handle it, I believe.”
Smith said that, moving forward, the building is also organizing people who could help out residents on each floor so that if something like this happens again, they have resources amongst themselves to help each other.