CALTRANS HOMES VACANT: Consider Sympathy for ‘Reclaimers’ | Offering Up a Different Perspective on a Lesser-Known Crisis

Though many have been preoccupied with the global coronavirus crisis, another movement has been paralleling the pandemic on the border of South Pasadena

PHOTO: Kasper Tobias | News | A group of ‘Reclaimers’ have begun occupying empty CalTrans homes in an effort to seek shelter on the border of El Sereno and South Pasadena. CHP officers have been staking out some of these locations

Although many streets in Los Angeles are quiet and movement is slow due to the State recommended quarantine, there is a stretch of El Sereno leading into South Pasadena that is seeing more action due to the many CHP (California Highway Patrol) vehicles traveling in groups. If you were unaware of the reason, one might think that it’s because of the CoVid-19 crisis. But what is happening on Sheffield Ave has more to due with the high rent and homeless crisis.

El Sereno, Pasadena and South Pasadena residents may have seen one of the many empty CalTrans homes that are sprinkled throughout certain neighborhoods stretching from the end of 710 freeway all the way through into Pasadena where Huntington Hospital is. On the empty homes a State Notice reads “No Trespassing”. All of these homes were bought up by CalTrans with the hope of extending the 710 freeway through El Sereno, South Pasadena and Pasadena. This hope for the State finally was laid to rest after years of opposition from many residents of these towns. Some of these homes have been vacant for almost 50 years while the state and local government and residents went head to head.

A group emerged out of this crisis and a disdain for seeing so many homes empty and seeing so many homeless people. The irony was all too transparent. A group of “Reclaimers” decided they had enough. In the beginning of March the group “Reclaimed” their first home. Many people gathered and helped one family with children by donating furniture and labor. Reclaiming Our Homes has been met with opposition by some local neighbors and CHP.

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The South Pasadenan News spoke with one CHP officer who didn’t know why they were there.

“We got a call to park at these homes. We don’t know for how long we will be here. He also stated that “Cal Trans called them to protect these properties.”

On the first week, one of the first “Reclaimed” homes was moved into and locals witnessed a gathering of young and old with much diversity in front of the home. A tent covered an area where several people were preparing food (free). A couple of people were gardening in the front yard. Many people were conversing and one could gather that there was a strong sense of community with this group.

As of yesterday, driving through the neighborhood and the house that once seemed to be the hub of the “Reclaimers” was mostly empty aside from two kids who stood on the porch and smiled for a quick photo-op. They seemed very happy.

We asked “Are you always this happy?”

“We are happy to have a home”, one of them softly said.

Across the street a neighbor who was once an activist who was opposed to the 710 freeway extension by Cal Trans displayed her own banner along her fence that reads “Squatters is not the answer. We all don’t agree in breaking the law”.

In these unprecedented times it may be a thought to consider that we are better off sympathizing with or fellow humans; to help each other and to re-evaluate what is important. Whichever side you land on this particular issue we must all agree that our homeless and housing crisis should be taken just as serious as any other crisis.