Elderly residents trapped as unit lift breaks down

Elderly residents at a Housing NSW unit block in Wollongong have been left virtually stranded in their homes for more than a week after the only lift at the three-storey complex broke down.

Several residents at 22-24 Smith Street say they have been severely hampered since the lift stopped working on February 18 because they have trouble making it up and down the only alternative - up to 40 stairs.

In one extreme case, osteo arthritis sufferer June Hewison is facing her 11th day confined to her third-floor unit and balcony, unable to get down the stairs, let alone up them.

"I normally go walking three or four times a week - I have to reduce the swelling [from the arthritis] - but I haven't been able to in days and it's really affecting me," she said.

"I can't do my washing because the machines are on the ground floor, I can't get to the letter box or put my rubbish out, and I've had to rely on my grandson to get me groceries."

Mrs Hewison admitted being confined to her unit made her feel isolated and vulnerable.

"If anything goes wrong I don't know how I'd get out of here," she said.

A Housing NSW spokesman told the Mercury the lift was expected to be fixed by the end of the week and that out-of-order lifts, particularly in a seniors living complex, were treated as "a priority".

He blamed the delay on the necessary parts having to be ordered.

Residents in the complex say the breakdown is one of many they have had to endure in recent months.

Housing NSW moved Sonja Oudhoff, 56, to the complex last October because of its lift access.

She said the service was terribly unreliable.

"I reckon it's been out of order about five or six times since I moved in," she said.

"Some days I can do the stairs but on a day when my back is bad, forget it."

Ron Pilcher, 83, normally uses a motorised scooter to get around.

With the lift out of order, he has had to rely on his not-so-reliable legs to make the journey up and down the steps for the past 11 days.

"It takes me several minutes to get down from the second floor and I can't go anywhere in a hurry," he said.

Yvonne Bottin, 72, said she had to rely on the goodwill of others to carry her groceries and washing to her third-floor unit.

"It's harder getting up the stairs than down them for me," she said.

"I've just had a hip replacement so the last thing I should be doing is using stairs."

Housing NSW offered a public apology to affected residents.

However, said the "unavailability of parts placed the matter beyond its control".

Resident Ron Pilcher outside the stalled lift in a  Housing NSW unit block. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Resident Ron Pilcher outside the stalled lift in a Housing NSW unit block. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI


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