Representatives of the Union of the Homeless broke into the same vacant South-Central Los Angeles house twice Wednesday, vowing to turn it over to a homeless family.
But an official of the Veterans Administration, which had repossessed the house from its former owner, arrested two members of the group on suspicion of trespassing and another official said there will be more arrests unless the break-ins cease.
"Allowing them to stay would open a Pandora's box of legal problems," said Veteran's Administration spokesman Larry Caird.
Occupation of the two-bedroom, Spanish-style house in the 8700 block of South Denker Avenue was part of a nationwide campaign by the union, a Philadelphia-based activist group.
The house has no electricity, gas or water service, but David Silva, local secretary and treasurer of the union, said his group planned to move in a homeless family with two children now living in a car.
When Rod Locke, a representative of the VA's Western regional office in Los Angeles, arrived shortly after 3 p.m., however, he found only two members of the organization on the premises, and told them they would have to leave or be arrested.
The two men, who identified themselves as Marcus Victor Lopez and Ahmad Azzeem, refused to leave and Locke made a citizen's arrest, turning his prisoners over to Los Angeles police officers who had accompanied him. Lopez and Azzeem were taken to the 77th Street Police Station, where Lt. Dan Watson said they were booked on suspicion of misdemeanor trespassing.
A spokesman for the union said the house would be reoccupied during the night, and eight members of the organization gathered outside. But hours passed as they waited for Lopez and Azzeem, who they said had agreed to lead the second break-in.
Police explained that Lopez and Azzeem were still in jail. By late Wednesday, neither had been able to make bail, which was set at $500 apiece.
Meanwhile, despite the apparent disorganization, at least two members of the group entered the house through the same front window used for the earlier break-in and prepared to spend the night there. There were no signs of Veterans Administration or police presence.
The house has been offered for sale by the Veterans' Administration, and real estate agent Samuel Bringier, who is trying to sell it, said an offer has been received.
On Monday, Silva's group occupied another house, but left after they learned that it was also in the process of being sold, with escrow slated to close next month.