An 88-year-old woman diagnosed with cancer who is on hospice is the last tenant in the West Hollywood apartment complex she’s lived in for more than four decades after new ownership came in with plans to build a luxury apartment building.
Her caretaker says county officials have deemed her too ill too move and she hasn’t left her residence in months, but now she’s in a legal battle with the owners, who want her out.
The new owners have shut off the power outside, and now squatters have moved in.
Dorle Rispoli said she knows she’s dying. She just wants to do that peacefully in her own home.
She’s lived in the same apartment on Romaine Street in West Hollywood for 42 years. Diagnosed with terminal liver cancer, her health has been in decline for the past year.
Rispoli’s caretaker, Michael Ryan, says she’s a fighter.
“She’s from Germany. She moved here with, like, ten dollars to her name. She was abused by her husband,” Ryan said.
He met Rispoli when he was a resident in her building. Over a decade, they became friends and he started taking care of her because she had no one else.
“I told her I would assist her for the rest of her life, and didn’t expect this to happen,” Ryan said.
When Empire Property Group acquired the building, they started giving residents relocation fees to move out. They are planning to demolish the building and build all new luxury apartments.
In December 2017, Rispoli’s neighbors began moving, but since she is disabled and elderly, she was given an extra year to stay in accordance with the Ellis Act.
That time was up this past December just before Christmas, but the new owners allowed her to stay a little longer.
“She got a relocation check for $23,000 but once she gets that check, she’s now over the limit for MediCal, or MediCare,” Ryan said.
That means she has to pay out of pocket for assisted nursing, which can be up to $250 a day, and once she moves, her $570 per month rent would likely be over $2,000.
Ryan said a Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health worker, who has been checking on Rispoli, said she is too ill to be moved and should stay as long as she can. The new property owners don’t agree.
“Now it’s an official eviction but they don’t want that to be public because it doesn’t look good. I mean, who wants to evict a 88-year-old woman on hospice?” Ryan said.
Rispoli hasn’t left her apartment in months. When she got her cancer diagnosis in June, doctors gave her six months to two years to live. She can’t even sit up on her own.
Ryan is now staying with her because squatters have moved in and she doesn’t feel safe.
“If he wants to leave, I have nobody to take care of me,” Rispoli said. “So what do I do?”
Ryan said the new owners offered to let her stay until March 1.
KTLA contacted L.A. County officials, but because of HIPAA laws, they weren’t able to provide any more information on the situation.
KTLA also reached out to the new owners, but so far, have not heard back.
Ryan has created a GoFundMe page to raise money for Rispoli.
“I’ve known her for almost 15 years and I want to help her be safe and comfortable for the rest of her life,” he wrote on the page.
Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified the street on which Rispoli lives.