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California

Dozens living in filthy, unsafe commercial building are evacuated

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Some rooms in a commercial building space in South Los Angeles were being used as illegal housing. The living conditions were “not healthy or safe,” a Fire Department spokesman says.
(KTLA)

The rooms in the commercial South L.A. building were so covered in trash and clothing that, in some cases, you could not see the floor. A rancid smell permeated the building, flies buzzed around trash and children’s toys were scattered about.

It was an appalling sight for officials who responded Friday morning to the 800 block of West 57th Street to evacuate dozens of people living there illegally. The evacuation was planned by Councilman Curren D. Price Jr., whose fieldworkers learned about the living conditions by talking to community members, said Angelina Valencia, the councilman’s communications director.

A task force created by Price’s office worked to gather city departments and ensure the people living inside would be housed. Valencia said 30 people so far have accepted temporary housing in shelters and motels.

By 9 a.m., the Los Angeles Fire Department had evacuated 16 people, including multiple children, said LAFD Capt. Branden Silverman. As officials boarded up most of the doors and windows, dozens more people were expected to return to pick up their belongings, he said.

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The living conditions were “not healthy or safe,” he said. “It wasn’t designed to be inhabited.” For months, the building has been without water, gas or electricity, and it appeared a makeshift electrical system was created, with extension cords on the walls and floors, he said.

“People were sleeping anywhere they could,” Silverman said, adding that mattresses covered the floors of the building. “There were all kinds of things you would see in a regular house, just very cluttered and strewn about.”

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Refrigerators inside the kitchen area of the illegal living space in South L.A.
(Dedee Verdin)

There were no toilets, that he could see, save for a children’s portable toilet. In a kitchen area in the middle of the building, at least five refrigerators lined the walls.

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Some of the people who evacuated told news outlets at the scene that they had been paying up to $700 in rent to live in the dismal conditions, though it’s unclear who, if anyone, was managing the property.

Some of the residents were elderly or had mental illnesses, Valencia said. One woman living there was pregnant.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Children and Family Services, counselors and other city departments were at the facility through Friday morning and will continue to help those evacuated with additional help they may need, Valencia said.

The councilman, she said, wanted to make sure “the families are not left out on the street.”

The building, which officials thought was once a church, had been sold months earlier, although its front signage still reads “New Heaven & Earth Christian Cntr Hope.”

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City employees gather during the evacuation of a commercial building in South L.A. to help evacuees find temporary housing and other services.
(Dedee Verdin)

alejandra.reyesvelarde@latimes.com

Twitter: @r_valejandra

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