Homeless families occupy vacant Los Angeles homes amid coronavirus outbreak

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Homeless families in Los Angeles have reportedly taken over a dozen vacant homes in the city since last weekend amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While city officials are working to get homeless populations into safe locations, including hotels and trailers, these families say they haven’t done enough, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“With this health crisis and this housing crisis, we need every vacant house to be a home for those who don’t have a safe and stable place to sleep in,” Ruby Gordillo, who moved into one of the abandoned homes with her three children on Saturday, said, according to the paper.

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The home is one of many bought by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) years ago in a failed attempt to expand the 710 freeway.

While Caltrans has sold some of the homes, many of them remain vacant.

“We’re humbled to have you, the taxpayers, welcome us into your home, which is now my home and my family’s home,” Gordillo told reporters Saturday. “Thank you.”

Martha Escudero, who moved into one of the homes Saturday, said local officials are being "unjust," adding, “We have to do this.”

She told the Times that Caltrans hasn’t attempted to evict any of the families yet.

As the families moved in, protesters standing six feet apart, some wearing face masks, made a human chain.

Gordillo and Escudero’s families occupied the same home Saturday but Wednesday Gordillo’s family and Benito Flores, a man who had moved in with them, moved to houses across the street over worries about social distancing.

“Now they have their own homes,” Gordillo said.

The group occupying the homes call themselves Reclaiming Our Homes and are affiliated with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, which pushes for tenant protections.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Tuesday that he knew about the families occupying the houses over the weekend but said the city is focused on moving people into hotels and motels.

“We don’t have a ton of supply of vacant housing,” he said. “To get to the numbers that I think we need to get to, we’d never get there just with vacant houses.”

The city also plans to convert at least 42 recreation centers into temporary shelters.

Gov. Gavin Newsom this week announced $150 million to help house homeless across the state during the crisis.

Desiree Ramos, who lives in the neighborhood, said she understood the protesters’ reasons but is concerned.

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“This neighborhood is quiet,” she said, according to The Times. “It doesn’t look like it’s going to stay that way.”