Washington DC

‘We don't know whether we're gonna live or die': Senior housing building has no AC during spiking heat wave

A resident of an affordable housing building for D.C. seniors has had no AC for more than 30 days. "It's pitiful," he said.

NBC Universal, Inc.

UPDATE: Resident James Gathers and the property manager reports the air conditioning was fixed after News4's report.

Jerome Gathers has lived at the House of Lebanon, an affordable housing building for seniors in D.C., for 11 years.

But for the past month, the building has been "hell."

"You can't believe [it], man. We don't know whether we're going to live or die," Gathers told News4. "It's pitiful. I'm too old for this."

Gathers, navigating the building in an automatic wheelchair, said the air conditioning in his apartment has not worked in more than 30 days. It's making him "miserable."

"I shouldn't be going through this, I don't deserve this. I don't need to live a life like this. For what? I'm a veteran. I fought for this country."

Walking into the apartment is like entering a sauna. News4 photojournalist Beth Brown and reporter Joseph Olmo spent five minutes inside while reporting the story and were dripping in sweat.

The thermostat on the wall is so broken that it doesn't even show the temperature inside the unit, let alone allow Gathers to control the AC.

"Not anything has been done," said fellow building resident Carolyn Saunders. "It seems like they don't care. Not when they're getting that money. They're good to go."

The heat wave is not helping the already bad situation, Saunders said. Her AC has been out for three days.

Columbus Property Management, which oversees the House of Lebanon, sent News4 a statement about the broken AC.

"Columbus Property Management has a responsive 24-hour maintenance team available to the residents of the House of Lebanon," the statement reads. "Since your news team was provided access to the site of the HVAC unit after we visited the resident, our team is on their way back again tonight to repair the unit in hopes they can have direct access to do so. As an interim solution, we offered to provide the resident with a portable AC unit."

Residents in a similar situation have options, according to the D.C. government. They can call the Office of the Tenant Advocate at 202-719-6560, which will help with disputes with the landlord.

Senior citizens can contact the Department of Aging and Community Living, and ask about senior wellness centers.

Knowing your options is just as important as staying hydrated in extremely hot weather.

"They was hiding it," said Saunders. "Lucky I had a fan to cool me down, 'til I get that air conditioner working. Other than that, I would have been sick as I don't know what."

Contact Us