LOS ANGELES — With a summons of eviction in hand, the thought of facing housing insecurity once again clouds the mind of Marta Escudero.
“We were going from different families and friends, sometimes on a couch and sometimes on the floor or a spare room and a bed,” said Escudero. “It was usually cramped situations.”
It was during the early days of the pandemic and the lack of a place to call home which pushed several housing insecure families — including Escudero’s — to move into several Caltrans owned homes in the Northeast LA neighborhood of El Sereno.
They dubbed themselves: “The Reclaimers.”
Throughout 2020, the reclaimers fought and won for the right to temporarily remain in the homes under a transitional housing contract program managed by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA).
Escudero says that in Oct. 2022, several families received three-day eviction notices. They did not leave. Then in March, several eviction summons appeared in front of them.
“There is a lot of grief and loss from COVID and processing and healing that still needs to be done,” said Escudero. “If I was displaced from this community, it would really affect myself and my daughters.”
The homes sit on the direct path of the defunct 710 freeway extension project.
Under the Roberti Act, Caltrans can and is encouraged to sell or exchange any unused state-acquired property for highway purposes.
“These homes that are Caltrans homes are up for bid,” said Escudero. “They are going to be abandoned again for at least one or two years.”
As another battle to remain housed ensues, attorney Gilbert Saucedo is representing one family served with an eviction notice.
“There is nothing in the books that HACLA or Caltrans has to give an extension,” said Saucedo. “But there is also nothing that says that they can’t.”
Saucedo has navigated many of the reclaimers thru the legal jargon and their rights as reclaimers.
“If they [Caltrans/HACLA] win and they get our clients evicted,” said Saucedo. “You are going to have these homes sitting vacant for months or who knows how long and our clients are going to be homeless again on the streets, who benefits from that?”
In a statement to Spectrum News, Caltrans says in part:
“At this time, the homes that are leased to HACLA will continue to be used for its transitional housing program. Caltrans has already contacted more than 130 tenants who have rented single-family homes from the department for at least 25 years.”
As the clock ticks, the thought of who or where Escudero will have to seek shelter from preoccupies her. She knows the fight she’s about to embark on is not only to protect housing for her family but of the housing insecure in LA.
“Not having that stability that I am going to stay here a little longer it creates stress and anxiety,” said Escudero. “These structures that hoard houses are wrong and we should stand against them.”