Homeless California families squatting in state-owned homes evicted amid COVID-19 at Thanksgiving

COVID-19: Homeless families squatting in state-owned homes evicted at Thanksgiving

LOS ANGELES — California Highway Patrol officers forcibly removed an undisclosed number of people, who had been squatting in vacant, state-owned homes, the night before Thanksgiving.

Videos of the forcible evictions, posted on social media, showed officers in riot gear clashing with housing rights protesters, who shouted “Shame on you!” as the officers moved door-to-door in the El Sereno neighborhood, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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One video showed a CHP tactical team ramming at least one door to gain entry, and officers declared the scene an unlawful assembly at 8:45 p.m., KABC reported.

A group dubbed “Reclaiming Our Homes” began illegally occupying a different cluster of California Department of Transportation-owned homes in March. Another group, identified as Reclaim and Rebuild Our Community, has since posted a video to YouTube addressing Gov. Gavin Newsom directly, claiming the families had been living in vehicles but are now “sheltering-in-place” inside the vacant homes to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus, the TV station reported.

Claudia Lara, a member of Reclaim and Rebuild Our Community, told the Times that the families who moved in on Wednesday included children as young as 3 months and seniors over 70.

“To do this during the holidays, it is inhumane. It’s really irresponsible,” Lara told the newspaper. “Housing is a human right, and all families deserve to have safe shelter, especially during the global pandemic.”

Wednesday’s clash occurred only hours after about 20 families moved en masse into the El Sereno neighborhood. The transportation department purchased dozens of homes in the area years ago, intending to demolish them for a 710 freeway expansion, but the project stalled in 2018, the Times reported.

It was not immediately clear how many people were displaced during the Thanksgiving eve raid.

In response to Wednesday night’s evictions, Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León posted on social media that his office secured hotel vouchers and “other rapid rehousing solutions” for those in immediate need, while negotiating with the state to secure permanent support for families.

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