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Abandoned building found with 40 people living inside

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — A commercial building where several dozen people reportedly were living illegally was evacuated June 21 and authorities were working to arrange for temporary housing for them.

“Today, my office led a mass and orchestrated effort to come to the aid of dozens of people living in deplorable conditions inside a former church that had been converted into an illegal boarding house, Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price said in a prepared statement.

Police and fire department personnel went to the 800 block of West 57th Street at about 6:45 a.m., Nicholas Prange of the Los Angeles Fire Department said. City officials also went to the scene.

The LAFD’s Fire Prevention Bureau was investigating building code violations involving “illegal habitation” of the structure, Prange said.

No injuries were reported.

LAFD Capt. Branden Silverman said the building was not zoned for housing.

“There is a lot of excessive storage, a lot of trash,” Silverman told ABC7 at the scene. “There is no running water, electricity, gas — just not suitable for living. In fact, this building was never designed to be lived in; it is actually zoned for commercial occupancy.

“So, it doesn’t even have the fire protection systems that are [required to be] in place for someone to be living in,” Silverman said. “So obviously, our biggest concern all the time is the safety of all the residents of Los Angeles.”

Silverman said authorities were working to arrange temporary housing for the people evacuated from the building.

Price said that there were More than three dozen people living in the structure.

“There were as many as 40 people living inside the building at 805 W. 57th St., which has no electricity, running water and is in poor sanitary conditions overtaken by trash and rodents,” Price said. “I went to the scene this morning to meet with those affected, along with representatives from a dozen city and county departments working with my office to get these individuals into safe, decent housing and give them access to any social and health care they may need.”

“As far as this morning, we know that 16 people have been officially notified that they will not be able to return to this … building to live in,” Silverman said. “They will be able to retrieve their belongings.”

Other people returning to the building who may not be aware of the evacuations will be notified that they will not be allowed to live there, and will also be offered assistance, Silverman said.

“Just disgust, just horror,” Price told Fox11 at the scene. “That’s why when we found out about it, we put together a task force — not just to investigate but to get these folks out and get them in a safe place to live. … Inhumane, trash, debris, no one should be living in those kinds of conditions.”

Some people reportedly had been paying rent to live in the building. The good news is that placement for many of these individuals came pretty quickly, though there are still some people searching for a place to lay their heads.

“As of the early afternoon, 31 of the approximately 40 individuals had accepted placement into housing, ranging from beds to vouchers,” Price said. “This included students, pregnant women, elderly, disabled people and families with children. Though it was an extremely heartbreaking situation, all of us involved shared a common goal: to give the affected individuals hope and a fresh start.”

From City News Service