Madison family struggles to stay warm due to heating issue: ‘I feel like there is no hope’

MADISON, Wis — From water damage to issues with heating and a back-and-forth with the property manager to get it resolved, one family has gone through lots of utility issues during a week where it’s heavily relied on.

Chitaqua Willis says she’s had issues heating her apartment at Tree Lane on Madison’s west side at the same time temperatures have fallen to bitterly cold levels. On Sunday, the apartment unit above her leaked and flooded into her bathroom.

“My upstairs neighbor, one of the kids fell asleep running the bath water. It overflowed and caused my unit to flood,” said Willis.

The affordable housing building is owned by Heartland Alliance Housing based in Chicago. Property management through Habitat Company told News 3 Now on Friday she called maintenance with a heat issue on Thursday.

“I haven’t had heat for three days,” said Willis. “The space heater here is what’s keeping my bathroom warm.”

Erik Brinkmann with the Madison Fire Department says her family’s situation isn’t safe during this time of year. He’s made several trips to the home to check on the family and the issues they were experiencing with flooding and heat.

“I wouldn’t want my parents or my kids or anyone living in that type of condition,” said Brinkmann. “It’s just not safe.”

He said that it’s been difficult for the family to try to find solutions to their problems.

“It’s hard to find out who to talk to to get an answer,” said Brinkmann.

“I’m taking a risk sleeping in this apartment every night,” said Willis. “It’s ridiculous how we have to live here.”

While property management says they provided space heaters and taped up the windows to Willis’s apartment, she and her family still want to find somewhere else to sleep at night.

“I didn’t care where they put us. I just wanted to be somewhere where me and my family could possibly do Christmas., but it looks like we have to be here,” said Willis.

She says the problems she’s experiencing are making the holidays more difficult for her family.

“I have $750 I was going to use to go Christmas shopping. , but with all the issues going on, I can’t. I don’t know what to do,” said Willis. “I’m probably going to have to use this money to go get us a hotel room. But how long is that going to last?”

This holiday, Willis feels like the lights on her family tree are dimmer than ever before.

“I just feel like nobody cares,” said Willis. “I feel like there is no hope.”

For Brinkmann, he hopes that the spirit of the season will cause someone to bring more warmth to this family’s hearts and home.

“This is just highlighted, because of the cold, because it’s Christmas, and because she didn’t believe anybody was going to help her,” said Brinkmann. “I hope we can change her mind that there are people out there that will help and want to.”