Office in Cleveland where people can sign up for heating assistance closed due to heating problems

CLEVELAND - More than 30 Cleveland residents had to reschedule their appointments to receive heating assistance on Thursday because of boiler-related issues at building containing the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland’s HEAP office.

Some of the people who were forced to reschedule had been anxiously awaiting their appointments for more than a month.

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Around 8 a.m. Thursday, HEAP office staff was notified by building maintenance that there were issues related to the boiler and that they would have to leave while repairs were made, according to Lauren Okapal, the director of communications and outreach for CEOGC. The organization leases the building, which has a half dozen other tenants.

HEAP staff worked to get through all of the morning appointments, as well as some holdover appointments from the previous day before leaving the building, Okapal said.

Staff then called the 35 people that had afternoon appointments to notify them that their appointment would have to be rescheduled.

Of the 35 calls made, 10 people did not have valid phone numbers or voicemails that had not been set up.

After the facility had closed for the day, there was a steady stream of people walking to the front doors of the HEAP office only to find out it was closed.

“Two months I’ve been waiting for this appointment. I’m a senior citizen and this is not right,” one woman said. “I need my heat and I don’t know where else to go. They called me just this morning to confirm my appointment. I said 'yes I will be there.'”

Charlene Hutchinson said she had a 3 p.m. appointment that she set up more than a month ago. She rode the bus from East Cleveland to make it to the appointment on-time.

“I am very frustrated, very frustrated,” Hutchinson said. “I didn’t get a phone call. I just came down here and I just can’t get in.”

A sign on the door directed people to call the HEAP office’s manager. When the manager returns on Friday morning, he will assist those who still have to reschedule their appointments, Okapal said.

Okapal said the office is tentatively scheduled to re-open at its normal time Friday morning. Of the people that have rescheduled their appointments, many of them will be seen either Friday or early next week. Those that were affected by the closure will be given priority.

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