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Mother of disabled son says housing does not accommodate his needs

Mother of disabled son says housing does not accommodate his needs

An El Paso mother says her government housing isn’t meeting disability accommodations needed for her son.

“He weighs 75 pounds, he has cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, he has a motor delay, he has hearing loss, and he can't see,” Griselda Martinez said.

Twice a day, Martinez has to carry her 14-year-old son, Nathan, through a narrow hallway to get to the tub.

“I'm not even supposed to have a bathtub, it's supposed to be a roll-in shower,” Martinez said.

The family is enrolled in the Public Housing Program with El Paso's Housing Authority. She said she was assured seven years ago that this house would be able to accommodate her son.

“They were supposed to transfer me an ADA-complying unit, which it's not, it’s just a regular home,” Martinez said.

Javier Camacho, spokesperson for the Housing Authority, said Martinez accepted that unit initially years ago.

“In some cases we can have families where they get into a unit, it meets their needs at that particular time but over time maybe things have changed or grown severe or maybe not so much and therefore their needs have changed,” Camacho said.

In 2013, she was put on a disability transfer waiting list, according to a letter she received from the Housing Authority.

“It would be comfortable for him, and safe for him and it would be a lot easier for me to make his day a lot better,” Martinez said.

Martinez said Nathan has access to a $15,000 grant to make accommodations on the current house, but claims the Housing Authority has chosen not to do the work.

“This home is owned by housing. So it's not like it's a private owned home or they'd have to get the permission, they could have easily done it,” Gerorge Zavala said.

Zavala with United Advocacy of El Paso is an activist for the disabled community and is surprised the family is living in the current conditions.

Camacho said making unit changes isn’t as easy as starting construction the next day.

“We need to number one ensure that the family that will be impacted by the physical improvements of any unit is accommodated, especially when we’re talking about disability,”

Zavala says the process needs to be improved.

“When you do a safety transfer, it's supposed to be within a timely fashion,” Zavala said. “Maybe it's miscommunication or lack of empathy. It's just amazing.”

Martinez said her home has gotten worse over time and is unsafe for her two other children, ages 8 and 9. But she knows she can't give up.

“He still has me around to carry him and to do his stuff alone, but in the near future he probably won't even have me,” Martinez said.

Camacho said they have found a new home for the family which Martinez has accepted. Construction for disability accommodations began a week ago.

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