Tenants in Homewood ask 11 Investigates for help after a week without heat

PITTSBURGH — Several local families spent the last week in the cold after the gas was turned off in their apartment building. The six-unit building sits on Bennett Street in Homewood.

“It feels nicer out here than it does in my house right now, which is crazy,” Emonie Smith said while standing outside. She lives in an apartment with her husband, 1-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter.

Residents say they have not had gas since Wednesday and instead of being notified of the outage by their property manager, they found out when their heat and stoves stopped working.

One tenant said she cried on the phone with her children’s teacher, explaining why her kids were going to school in dirty clothes.

Another described the past week as “hell.”

“Last night it was snowing. It was so cold that we could see our breath. We were bundled up together,” Smith said. “I feel like I can’t even be a mother properly, can’t even be a person properly, can’t even wash up, can’t wash my dishes. My kitchen is a mess.”

She and her family have been escaping to their 80-year-old grandmother’s apartment across town when they’re able. At home, they’re using two space heaters in the two-floor unit. Every time they plug in a third, it blows a fuse.

Tenants who spoke to Channel 11 said they have called the property management group, Peoples Gas, the local health department and the Neighborhood Legal Services Association. They were told the gas was initially disconnected due to nonpayment by the landlord. Then when the gas company tried to reconnect the service on Monday, they identified issues with the equipment.

As of Tuesday afternoon, multiple tenants who spoke with Channel 11 said they had received no official word from their property manager, Lakeside Management, who recently took over managing the building.

“We had no notice, no nothing, no emails, no paper on the door,” Smith said.

Brandi Cramer lives in an apartment with her 5 and 7-year-old children. She has had them bundled up, layering sweatshirts and winter coats when they’re in the house.

“When they ask me why there’s no heat, I gotta tell them, ‘It’s not mommy’s fault,’” Cramer said. “I feel like I’m hopeless because it’s not on me. And there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Jan Chapman said she is waiting on numerous repairs in her apartment aside from the gas outage.

“I shouldn’t have to live like this. I’d be better off in the street,” she said. “It hurts so bad. It hurts so bad.”

She said she has been spending extra time at work, not for overtime but to stay warm.

Channel 11 went to the Lakeside Management Office to try to get answers. Through an intercom system, we were told the issue would be resolved “soon” and that a regional manager would be in touch. Several hours later, we are still waiting to hear from them.

Peoples Gas released a statement, saying it hired a plumber to make repairs due to the weather conditions and was working to restore gas. Typically, a property owner would need to hire a plumber to address necessary repairs.

Peoples Gas’ full statement is as follows: “Peoples’ main priority is the safety of our customers. When we visited the property to restore gas service yesterday, our technician found that repairs to the owner’s facilities would be needed prior to being able to restore gas service. Given the weather conditions and the urgency to re-establish natural gas service quickly, we contracted with a qualified plumber to conduct the needed repairs for the property owner. We are working cooperatively with the property owner to obtain inside access to the property to ensure that all of the necessary repairs can be made and service can be restored as soon as possible. "

Tenants tell Channel 11 technicians were at the property for hours trying to make repairs. The gas company told Channel 11 that repairs have been made and appliances for residents will be relit.

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