The Aurora Apartment building is a stately 1930 high-rise with some problems.
This week, a small army of city employees from a wide variety of departments have been hard at work trying to rid the building of what they call a gross infestation of bedbugs, cockroaches, mice and termites.
While they work, the elderly and disabled residents who call the 12-story building home have been biding their time in the lobby, waiting for the all-clear to return to their apartments.
“The situation is beyond acceptable and, therefore, we really need to find a solution now,” said Carol Schliesinger with San Antonio Metro Health.
Workers in decontamination suits have been seen at the complex for days, tossing furniture, bedding, and personal items from the fire escapes of the building into waste containers in the parking lot below.
In addition to a private contractor doing the remediation, a pest control company is on the job. Friday, a representative from the San Antonio Fire Marshal's office was also on hand, inspecting the high-rise for possible fire code issues.
Meanwhile in the lobby, it’s a surreal scene, with seniors in wheelchairs or walkers waiting for relief, surrounded by workers in head-to-toe decontamination gear.
"It's bad," Schliesinger said. “I think, from a public health standpoint, you really wouldn't want anybody having to endure much longer in this situation. So we are definitely trying our best to remediate the situation as soon as we probably can.”
On Friday, an inspector from Housing and Urban Development joined city forces to check on the progress of the cleanup.
“We are working with the owner and I understand that HUD has been communicating with the owner as well. I am not sure if he has seen the damage first-hand or not, but we're addressing this as a public health nuisance,” said Schliesinger, who added that she’s been told that the problems started when some residents apparently brought in used furniture or bedding. “Those pieces of furniture oftentimes can carry bedbugs, and so they are advising individuals not to bring in any used items.”
“[Friday night], they'll be getting a hot meal. Then over the weekend, Saturday and Sunday, they'll be getting breakfast, lunch and dinner,” said Roland Martinez with the city’s human services department.
Martinez noted that the city has also supplied the residents with toiletries and hygiene products, trying to meet the needs of the vulnerable seniors.
After working all week on the problem, Schliesinger said that only two floors of the building have been cleared, so the methodical assault will take for several more days before they can declare victory in this battle against the bugs.