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Group who broke into vacant Caltrans homes in El Sereno fighting to stay

Group who broke into vacant Caltrans homes in El Sereno fighting to stay
Group who broke into vacant Caltrans homes in El Sereno fighting to stay 02:22

For the last year, Ruby Gordillo is proud that she can call a once-vacant house on Sheffield Avenue in El Sereno her home.

"This is what I call home," said Gordillo. "I live here with my husband, my three kids, three cats and a dog."

Two years ago, Gordillo led a group called "Reclaiming our Homes" and broke into the vacant homes which were supposed to be demolished for the failed 710 freeway extension project. 

"We were extremely scared," said Gordillo. "We were very sure that we were going to be arrested."

Instead, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles negotiated a lease with Caltrans to give 25 households — including Gordillo's — a temporary emergency housing assistance contract since they had nowhere else to go. The leases will soon expire and when it does the state will require the tenants to leave. 

In a statement, HACLA said it "will work on alternative housing options" to help those who cannot transition into "permanent housing in the period of time provided."

Fighting to keep the houses they have called home, Gordillo and other housing advocates protested Wednesday and said the best option is to let them stay in the otherwise unoccupied homes. 

"Minimum wage is super low," said tenant Marth Escudero. "It's not feasible for me to have housing in the city." 

Tenants like Ernie Gomez, who has rented his home from Caltrans for more than 20 years, said that what Gordillo and her group are doing is unfair. 

"All of a sudden you see these protestors breaking into homes and they are giving them a red carpet treatment," he said. 

Gordillo said she will stay in her house no matter what. 

"We just might have to stay as long as we need to stay," she said. 

The city of L.A. has money set aside to purchase about 100 of these properties to either turn them into affordable housing or sell them outright. 

According to HACLA, two of the 25 households have transitioned to permanent housing solutions. 

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