Without heat or plumbing, elderly residents are hauling water to flush their toilets.

This article was originally published in the New York Times here.

Residents at Granada Homes, a 200-unit low-income housing residence for seniors in downtown San Antonio, have been without heat or water since Sunday, leaving them unable to shower or flush their toilets all week as a frigid winter storm seized Texas.

On Thursday night, there was a small measure of relief. Residents gathered to await the delivery of water, brought by community advocates who had filled orange Home Depot buckets with water from hoses and from the river that flows through downtown.

But Juan Flores, 73, said he needed more water to properly flush his toilet, and went to collect some from a bar nearby. He’s been struggling with the storm, he said, and slipped and fell on the ice outside earlier in the week. Now, he was sore from his fall and lugging a water bucket up to his apartment, alone, to flush his toilet.

“Don’t get near me, I stink,” he said, chuckling. “I haven’t taken a shower since Sunday.”

Inside Mr. Flores’s apartment on the fifth floor, there was a space heater and water boiling to help keep him warm. A blue U.S. Navy flag hung from one of his living room walls — he had served four years in the Navy in his 20s, he said.

Mr. Flores shakily picked up the orange bucket, maneuvered his way into the tight bathroom space, and dumped the water into his toilet. “I’m done,” he said after, seeming exasperated. “It’s heavy.”

“It’s been horrible,” said Juan Flores, a resident of the Granada Homes, noting that he had no family or friends in the area to help him out. “I have no one.”
“It’s been horrible,” said Juan Flores, a resident of the Granada Homes, noting that he had no family or friends in the area to help him out. “I have no one.”Credit…Christopher Lee for The New York Times

Mr. Flores said he was fed up with the weather and frustrated with the lack of city assistance and communication — 311 and the local Department of Veterans Affairs office have been unresponsive, he said. “Who can I call?” Mr. Flores asked.

“It’s been horrible,” he said, noting that he had no family or friends in the area to help him out. “I have no one.”

Back in the lobby, Geremy Landín, a community advocate, was making arrangements for the next day. Along with others, he has been organizing donations of food, water and blankets for the residents. Mr. Landín has also gone door-to-door across senior housing complexes in San Antonio to see if residents have water and power and to coordinate temporary moves to warming centers and hotels.

— Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio

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Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio

Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio is a national reporting fellow for The New York Times. She is from Los Angeles, and has previously reported in her hometown for the Los Angeles Times, worked for CNN in New York and Washington, and participated in The New York Times Student Journalism Institute. She is fluent in Spanish, and graduated from Columbia Journalism School and Williams College.

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