PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s a home tour that starts in the kitchen.
Roaches race across the stove. Gas fumes leak from the oven.
“I was standing where you guys are and I was marching in place to keep the roaches from running up my legs,” James Bullock, a social worker, said.
In the bathroom, the ceiling is collapsed and covered in mold. There is no hot water, so there is no place to shower.
The furnace was declared unsafe months ago. There hasn’t been hot water for nearly a year. A second bathroom can’t be used.
The back door, called the emergency door, is jammed shut with an old stepladder since the lock doesn’t work.
Living in the apartment without any heat and cooking with a broken heating plate is Daniel Williams.
Williams, who is battling colon cancer, also has some mental health issues. He spends more than half his monthly income on rent and bills for the apartment.
Social workers called the health department seven weeks ago. Inspectors pointed out the problems and declared it unfit for human habitation.
“Our determination that it’s unfit can make it easier for that individual to relocate or for the social worker that might be assisting them,” Guillermo Cole said.
That’s where social workers have troubles. They can’t order someone to leave an apartment. They can, however, have him declared unfit and possibly institutionalized.
At some point after seeing the squalid conditions, the social workers take action and they’re disgusted by what they see.
“Treated their dogs better in that they’ve given them better consideration for shelter, water,” Bullock said.
In an emergency action, social workers from the Hill House removed Williams from his apartment over the weekend.
Meantime, a number of social service agencies are reviewing their policies on this sort of intervention. They are convinced they should have acted months ago in an effort to get Williams out of there.
Meantime, the apartment will be shut down and the landlord will be cited. All of his other properties will be scrutinized.