Seniors in Norfolk say they feel 'neglected' after Verizon phone lines down for over a week

Posted at 9:28 PM, Nov 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-27 23:31:39-05

NORFOLK, Va. - It has now been over a week since some residents at the John Knox Towers in Ghent have gone without a working landline.

Most of the people who live here are 55 or older.

“I am a coronary heart artery disease patient. I also suffer from chronic depression,” said George Shields.

Shields' serious health conditions require him to wear a Life Alert bracelet. In an emergency, a simple push of a button will connect him to a dispatcher through his house phone.

Shields pushed the gray button and, “Please check telephone connection” was the message coming out of the receiver.

He currently has no connection. He says his Verizon landline has been disconnected since November 20.

“It’s very dangerous. It’s very scary," said Shields.

We tried calling his line; you get a busy dial tone.

“That is very depressing,” he adds.

Shields reached out to News 3 Friday morning for help, and anchor Jessica Larché reached out to Verizon for answers.

In chat messages, the phone company says that Shields is part of a “group outage ticket."

He’s not alone. His 97-year-old neighbor down the hall, Charles Ballard, has the same issue.

“We are victims here,” says Ballard, who has been blind for 20 years. “It’s frightening, to say the least,” he adds.

He can’t make outgoing calls, but he relies on incoming calls from people like his niece, who was visiting when we arrived.

She also made calls to Verizon.

“They said it was a bad coil in a manhole and that they didn’t have a replacement, so that was a holdup. They had to order one, and they are waiting for one to come in.”

Verizon tells us the issue is expected to be resolved by 9 p.m. on November 30.

Ballard says Verizon should’ve just kept them in the loop.

“It just feels like you are not wanted somewhere,” he adds.

Related: Leaders express concern over impacts of isolation on seniors in Hampton Roads

The residents of John Knox Towers tell us there is hardly ever anyone at the front desk. So, in the case of an emergency, they can't use the office phone.

We called the property management group, Lawson. They're closed for the holiday.