On a chilly December evening, Manuel Oliver, 68, his small frame encased in layers of warm clothing, turns the dials of his small electric stove to “high” and waits anxiously for the burners to glow a warm red.
Finally the burners begin to heat. Oliver can tell because one of the burners begins to smoke as a remnant from a recently cooked meal burns off. Oliver’s small studio in the Harriet Tubman House, a low-income seniors residence, fills with smoke as he rubs his hands together over the burner.
“The oven doesn’t work but if the burners are on full they heat the place up a little,” said Oliver.
Heat is important for Oliver because he suffers from bronchitis.
“When it gets too cold, I have to go to the hospital,” he said.
Oliver and 20 other seniors, many with serious medical conditions, held a press conference Friday to demand the owners of the 92-unit Harriet Tubman House repair an inadequate heating system they say is threatening their health and well-being. The press conference, during which the seniors waived placards and wore Christmas hats, was attended by several state housing advocates and Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who organized the event.