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The owner was a willing seller, and Los Angeles County an eager buyer. Escrow was set to close Tuesday on what would have been the county’s 10th purchase under a state program to convert hotels and motels that are ailing because of the COVID-19 pandemic into housing for homeless people.

Then the good news story turned messy when activists, including lawyers representing some of the motel occupants, came to the county Friday with a shocking complaint: The management of the extended-stay Studio 6 motel in Commerce was locking out residents who had lived there for months or even years, forcing some into homelessness without the relocation benefits they were entitled to under state law.

The situation grew contentious over the weekend as activists gathered at the entrance in support of about a dozen remaining residents and the management installed a locked fence across the narrow driveway to the parking lot to keep them out.

This week, activists continued their vigil outside the fence, shouting support for the residents, who included a single mother with three children and a three-generation family with a disabled grandmother who said she spent three days in her car after being locked out.

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