LOS ANGELES (AP) — A group of homeless people who had taken over several empty, state-owned houses in Los Angeles was forcefully removed by California Highway Patrol officers hours later amid protests by dozens of community activists.
Members of Reclaim and Rebuild Our Community said in a video message to Gov. Gavin Newsom posted on YouTube on Wednesday that they had taken over several homes purchased by Caltrans for the now defunct 710 Freeway corridor expansion.
The group said that among them are homeless families with children and seniors who have been living in cars and encampments and are looking for a place to shelter in place during the pandemic.
“We feel that amidst the pandemic, it’s irresponsible and inhumane for the state to be hoarding 170 homes,” Claudia Lara of Reclaim and Rebuild Our Community told KNBC-TV.
A group of activists confronted the officers and at least three people being detained by officers in full tactical gear as demonstrators urged officers to stop, the television station reported.
The CHP did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
A large group of CHP officers in at least 50 vehicles arrived to the El Sereno neighborhood Wednesday night and began forcibly removing people from about two dozen homes, said Ruby Gordillo, who lives in the neighborhood and is a housing activist with Reclaiming Our Homes.
Gordillo was among a group of mothers who took over a vacant home in the neighborhood in March, inspired by women who made headlines for a similar action in the San Francisco Bay Area that highlighted the state’s severe housing shortage.
Caltrans officials said in a statement the homes the group broke into Wednesday are unsafe and uninhabitable for occupants.
“As such, Caltrans requested the CHP remove trespassers so that the properties can be re-secured and boarded up,” they said.
The agency said it has been working with local governments to lease several of its available properties for use as temporary emergency shelters. It recently signed a lease with the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles so that 22 vacant Caltrans-owned homes in El Sereno can be used for the city’s transitional housing program.
Gordillo said those homes are now legally housing families who are a part of Reclaiming Our Homes.
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