It is a cozy neighborhood of middle-class black families who tend rose bushes on weekends, sit on the stoop in hot weather and greet their friends with "How're you doing?"

But, in the last three years, it has become a neighborhood possessed. Few homeowners along Osage and Pine streets in west Philadelphia expressed sympathy with MOVE, the alien force in their midst.

Members of the radical group lived in a filthy, rat-infested row house and filled the night with ear-splitting, obscenity-laden broadcasts over a loudspeaker. Neighbors had pleaded with police to evict the newcomers.

Today, in the aftermath of the police assault Monday that routed the radicals from their house and burned or damaged about 60 other row houses in a two-block area, neighborhood residents, many of them now homeless and destitute, were in shock.

"I didn't think I could stand another summer of these terrorists blasting away on their machines," said Oystrola Fletcher, 45, a government clerk. "But we got more than we bargained for."

In the cool sanctuary of St. Carthage Roman Catholic Church, Fletcher roamed pews draped with secondhand clothes, trying to find something that fit. Her house, a few doors from MOVE headquarters, was burned out and all of her possessions destroyed, she said.

"My children had bought me a brass lantern and some big beautiful portraits for Mother's Day," she said. "That's what hurts -- your pictures, your albums."

The police assault was justified, Fletcher said, if it was meant "to rout them out, not to burn them out . . . . They had to do something to get them out" after a day of negotiations and exchanges of gunfire failed.

Nonetheless, she blamed firefighters for failing to attack the blaze sooner, despite their expressed fear of sniper fire from the house, set ablaze after police dropped an explosive device.

Nearby, a social worker held a three-piece suit against Kermit Bostic's large, lanky frame, and Bostic tried to joke, saying, "Do you have a top hat and tails?"

A few minutes later, he wiped away tears. At 74, living on Social Security with his wife, he said he had found peace in the small row house bought with his life savings from working as a revenue clerk. The house was destroyed.

With other residents of the MOVE block on Osage Avenue, he was evacuated Sunday, leaving with only a toothbrush, a pair of pajamas and a police officer's promise that he would be back home in a day.

"I have no place to go, nothing to eat, no money. What can you do with no money? I was five years in the Pacific and I learned to survive, but what about my wife?" he asked.

He described his street as "a nice residential block," saying that, when he arrived two years ago, he had no idea that MOVE was nearby. "I wanted a peaceful life," he said.

His wife, 64, said MOVE members, who kept dozens of dogs and cats and did not believe in killing roaches or rats, used a loudspeaker to broadcast threats against city officials "with vile language morning, noon and night."

"We wanted them out," she said. "We couldn't live with them."

Bostic said he does not blame Mayor W. Wilson Goode or police for what happened. "They handled it in the only manner they knew how," he said. "If they dropped a bomb, they must have felt it could be contained."

Some members of burned-out families expressed fear that fire insurance will not cover their losses.

A four-block area around the fire zone was blockaded today, and police would not permit reporters to inspect the damage. However, from a nearby park, one could see rows of blackened brick town houses along narrow streets.

Policemen on horseback were stationed at several corners. A large red crane lifted rubble from the MOVE house in midblock.

Although hecklers had screamed "murderers" and "white pig cops" at police during the fire, police Sgt. Thomas Walsh said the angry words came from "a small percentage of the crowd."

Recalling 1978, when white mayor Frank L. Rizzo ordered police to remove MOVE members from a house in a black neighborhood hostile to police, Walsh said, "This neighborhood was relieved and supportive. We were welcomed."

Today, there was little visible tension in the area. A few people among several dozen at the barricade at the end of Osage Avenue grumbled about the tactics.

"Why did the city have to start a war?" asked Priscilla Johnson, 36, a sewing-machine worker. "They could have taken a wrecking ball and knocked the barricade off the roof."

Gloria Brooks, 60, a domestic worker, who lives two blocks from Osage Avenue, said she stayed awake worrying that the fire would spread to her house, which she has "finally paid off."

"Nobody is blaming the mayor," she said, adding that the city's first black mayor "had a job to do."

When MOVE arrived in the neighborhood, she said, members' children rummaged through garbage cans. "I would give them peanut butter and jelly," she said.

As the conflict between MOVE and its neighbors intensified, she stopped feeding the children, she said. "I wasn't going to contribute to a radical cause," she added.

"These people were filthy. They used the back alley for a toilet. They would do oral sex on the street. They had rats and roaches. Would you like to live in a surrounding like that?" she asked.

The tragedy evoked an outpouring of support from surrounding communities as thousands of boxes of clothing, towels and food were donated by individuals and businesses. In front of St. Carthage today, Adria Butler, 38, who said she is a suburban housewife, unloaded a dozen boxes from her car.

"I have four kids," she said. "My husband was out of work for two years, and it impressed you that no matter what you have, it can be taken from you quickly."

Fighting back tears, she said, "To think these people have nothing at all. I called all my neighbors and told them to empty out their closets."