Some still living in smoke damaged rooms after apartment fire

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Three weeks after a Northeast Austin apartment complex caught fire, people are still living in smoke damaged rooms.

The Red Cross provided displaced tenants with hotel rooms for a few nights after the March 8 fire, but most were forced to return to the Wheless Manor Apartments because it was their only choice.

“Our mission at this property was to serve people who were not being served,” said property manager Mark DeLoach. In serving that mission, DeLoach opened the doors to people with disabilities or other circumstances which may have kept them from living in other complexes.

“We will work with them, even if they have a criminal history other (complexes) might not take.”

Now that they have to find a new place to live, those tenants are stuck in a tough spot with their own personal situation and the competitive Austin rental market.

“I have not been able to find anything yet with personal problems and issues I have,” said Mike Pena.

DeLoach knows he cannot begin rebuilding until Pena and others find new homes but also knows many of the 32 rooms at Wheless Manor may not be fit for living.

“We expect a lot of those units to be condemned as soon as code compliance comes in,” said DeLoach. He has asked the housing authority and other agencies to assist with the relocation.

But he thinks getting everyone into a new place will take some compassion.

“It is time to ask that everyone look deep inside themselves.”

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