LOS ANGELES — In most major American cities, residents have been told to stay home and avoid unnecessary contact with others to slow the spread of coronavirus.
But California has by far the largest homeless population in the United States, and while state and local jurisdictions have taken certain measures to protect the unhoused from COVID-19, the vast majority are being left in the lurch.
That’s why a group of families in Los Angeles decided to take matters into their own hands, forcing their way into a number of vacant homes owned by Caltrans, the state transit authority, in the East LA neighborhood of El Sereno.
The families are part of a local activist network calling itself Reclaiming Our Homes. They had been planning to move into the homes for some time, inspired by a group in Oakland called Moms 4 Housing, which took over an investor-owned home in November. But the pandemic accelerated the move — and also made such a radical political action seem reasonable to more people than it would have otherwise.
“If the government’s not doing enough, then the community has to come together and provide the solutions for ourselves to save our lives,” said Martha Escudero, a mother of two who moved into one of the homes. “This is a life or death situation now.”