The Columbine Towers apartment building at 1750 South Federal Boulevard is fifteen stories high. It is also Section 8 housing, and mainly houses people over the age of seventy or with disabilities.
Columbine Towers elevators have been out of service since June 28. The day before, residents were told by notices on their doors that the elevators would be down the next day for maintenance. But after a week of waiting, the elevators still don’t work.
On July 3, Antonia Caballero, 79, who lives on the fourteenth floor, decided she couldn’t wait to leave: she had run out of food and needed to buy groceries. Although building management provided a number tenants could call if they needed help getting to and from their apartment while the elevators were out of order, Caballero says no one ever came back. answered the line. So she decided to take action.
By the time she got to the hall, she was already tired. After walking to the store and returning with her groceries, she was exhausted. There were two security guards in the lobby, but when Caballero asked if they could help her carry her groceries, she said they refused, explaining that they were only there to check people in. .
Someone visiting another tenant helped Caballero instead. But when they reached the tenth floor, she fell, banging her head against the wall. She woke up to neighbors attending to her, putting ice on her neck; she was eventually taken by ambulance to the hospital.
Tiffany Ward-Esteras, Caballero’s granddaughter, who helped translate during her interview with Westword, takes care of her abuelita since the accident. She says her grandmother fell again on July 4 in the apartment and fainted. Caballero does not remember this fall and Ward-Esteras worries that Caballero has a concussion.
Caballero would like to see a doctor for a follow-up appointment but is afraid of stairs. She says she wants to go once the elevators are fixed, but no time frame was given.
Deputy Chief Greg Pixley, a spokesman for the Denver Fire Department, said building management is working to resolve issues with the elevators, which involve the braking system. Due to a supply chain problem, the necessary parts are not yet available, he adds, but the maintenance team is trying to find a solution.
Caballero lived in the building for nine years. She pays $963 a month in rent, more than the $841 she receives from Social Security; Section 8 vouchers help her cover expenses. Ward-Esteras says other family members often step in to buy groceries for Caballero.
When Caballero first moved in, she liked living in Columbine Towers because it’s near the grocery store, a bus stop, and her favorite library branch. But now everything is falling apart, she says.
His apartment, like those of several of his neighbors, has water damage and poorly repaired holes in the walls. Her shower tiles have been broken for three months and no one from management has responded to her requests to fix them. She says the office closes earlier than expected most days. “I feel like a prisoner, like I have no freedom,” Caballero says.
Westword could not reach anyone in management for comment; no one responded to a message left at Columbine Towers yesterday.
Caballero is now working with top attorney Jason Flores-Williams to file a lawsuit against building management, which could be filed in federal court within the next two weeks. Flores-Williams says he will focus on premises liability — claiming management is negligent when it comes to tenant safety — as well as violating city codes when it comes to elevators; and violation of the Fair Housing Act, since the building operates as a Section 8 local and receives federal funding to help house people.
According to Flores-Williams, the building manager lives in the Columbine Towers penthouse. “This building is like a microcosm of the socio-economic conditions of the planet,” he says.
When he first heard about Caballero’s situation, Flores-Williams said he wasn’t sure if he would take the case because it’s different from the ones he’s been debating recently – typically high-profile civil liberties cases — as well as abortion advocacy, a new focus. But once he visited the apartments and saw the conditions, he adds, he knew he had to try to help Caballero.
“This woman is a fighter,” he said.