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Neighbors pitching in to help people affected by heating issues in Pittsburgh apartment building

PITTSBURGH — Some tenants at Penn Mathilda Apartments in Garfield tell Channel 11 they are freezing and fed up. Antoinette Osei says she hasn’t had heat in her unit all winter and in the five years she has lived in the building, the heat has been off and on during winter months.

“We need heat,” Osei tells Channel 11 News. “It’s terrible — it’s very cold right now. I walk around with my boots and hood on.”

With single-digit temperatures and below-zero wind chills Thursday night, neighbors say they need relief.

“We have enough blankets so we stay warm,” another tenant tells Channel 11. He says there are three to four blankets on his bed every night.

Some who live here are veterans, while others use wheelchairs or have serious medical conditions.

“Veterans deserve better,” Osei adds. “Low income folks deserve better — we all deserve better. Come fix everything in this building.”

For some, it’s not just the heat that’s posing a potential health risk. Tenants believe in some units, sewage is coming up the sinks and spilling over from toilets.

“I was watching TV, smelled something,” Robert Romito recalls. “It was like a bubbling. I went in the bathroom and all this grey matter is coming up the sink.”

“We need heat, we need plumbing, our toilets are overflowing,” Osei also adds.

After hearing Channel 11′s first report about this, Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, Pittsburgh Community Service Inc. and neighborhood restaurant, Everyday’s a Sunday, delivered boxes of hot meals and bags of warm blankets and heaters to these families.

“It’s cold outside and we wanted to make sure we brought them heaters today and we brought them blankets,” Natalie DeiCas, owner of Everyday’s a Sunday, tells Channel 11. “We’ll be there for them. We’ll make them a hot meal every single day and bring it over.”

“I’m impressed,” Romito adds.  “I think it’s really nice of people to be that concerned that fast. That’s commendable — very nice — it means something.”

A lawyer for Action Housing, who owns this building, says only two units have ongoing problems — a contradiction from the tenants we talked to. The lawyer says contractors have been on site Wednesday and Thursday, are on top of the issue and have tested every unit in the building.  Action Housing also told Channel 11, “we will not allow a tenant to sleep in freezing conditions.”

When asked where those without heat would sleep tonight, Channel 11 did not get a response.

Everyday’s a Sunday is offering those without heat to cross the street for a hot cup of coffee, a warm meal on the house or just a place to warm up.