McDonald House residents deserve AC!

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On May 2nd Northampton Housing Authority "...chose to notify residents who live in the seven-story building on Old South Street about a new rule banning window air conditioners" (Daily Hampshire Gazette, 2018). The reasoning behind this new rule of no window units is an unproven claim of safety: that the units could fall out and harm someone. Residents were forced to remove their window AC units, which now leave many without cool air during a prolonged heat wave here in western Mass. This low-income public housing has a nearly half population of elderly and/or disabled persons. They are at the mercy of the Housing Authority at this moment in a dangerous heatwave situation. 

The Housing Authority has offered "portable units" for residents, but at their cost and without assistance installing them. They claim they offer payment plans, however this is an undue financial burden to these residents who are all low-income, many who are on a fixed income, with no room for expenses outside of doctors and food, which also face a crisis here in western Mass. Residents have reported that these portable units do not work as well as window units, and the community room in the building reaches 80 degrees during the day. Northampton has been experiencing upwards of 100 degrees daytime and mid to high 80s at night. For disabled and elderly people this can prove dangerous for their wellbeing. 

Residents were told they could go to "cooling centers" set up by the city. Again, this is an undue burden and displacement from a residence in the process. Those with health issues in times of high heat are unable to leave from their bed, experience pain and can't walk, can't find rides ore even get down to the curb to meet them. Air problems outside make it dangerous for those with breathing issues to leave. Being in one's home is not just about comfort, but often to be with medication, assistive technology, and other resources that are not portable. Many without these accommodations face serious health consequences and death. 

Residents need immediate reinstatement of their window AC units to be installed by trained professionals to ensure proper placement. Housing Authority has trained staff that can do this with no issue, as they have in the past. This is an emergency situation that needs immediate action to ensure the safety and health of McDonald House residents. To demand residents to pay for a unit that does not function as well as window units, as well as assume that disabled and elderly residents can install and maintain these units. This is classist, agist, and ableist. We must step up and protect our vulnerable community members!

We urge Housing Authority to rescind this new rule immediately and reinstall residents window units for their health and safety. 

Contacts of authority for this crisis: 

Northampton City Mayor: David J. Narkewicz: 413-587-1249

Exec. Director of housing authority Cara Clifford: 413- 584-4030

Northampton Board of Health Director Merridith O'Leary

Housing and Urban Development for entire state of MA:
Boston Regional Office
Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. Federal Building
10 Causeway Street, 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02222-1092
Phone: (617) 994-8200

Northampton Counsel of Aging: 413-587-1228 ; Director Linda Desmond: 413-587-1231

Northampton Disability Commission Vice Chair Marianne LaBarge: 413-584-7937

Suggested email and phone script: 

Emergency McDonald House heat health issue:

I am contacting you as a concerned citizen in regard to the emergency situation at McDonald House in Northampton, MA. Recently residents were stripped of their access to A/C units that prevent high heat in their homes. Many are disables and/or elderly, all of whom are low income. These citizens are unable to afford the alternative options given to them. This is an unfair and unjust treatment during record breaking heat waves.

I urge you to take immediate action for these citizens to demand that HUD Housing Authority allow residents to have their a/c units to protect their health and safety during our climate change crisis that recently brought our city to 100 degrees multiple days in a row. This action by HUD endangers our vulnerable citizens. We must protect them.

Thank you for your time and look forward to hearing from you on this serious issue of public health and safety."

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