California’s Homeless Furnished Caves: Crisis Discovered Under Hidden Depths

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In an alarming revelation, homeless individuals in California have been found inhabiting caves, about 20 feet below street level along the Tuolumne River. These caves, surprisingly furnished, illustrate a stark and growing crisis in the state.

The Discovery and Cleanup

Modesto Police Department, alongside volunteers from Operation 9-2-99 and the Tuolumne River Trust, recently undertook a significant cleanup operation. Their efforts removed around 7,600 pounds of garbage, encompassing two truckloads and a trailer’s worth of debris from these subterranean dwellings. Ahead of the cleanup, the cave residents were informed and connected with assistance services.

The Caves: A Dangerous Refuge

These underground shelters posed a considerable risk. Tracy Rojas, a local resident, expressed concerns over the potential collapse of these structures, which could lead to devastating consequences. The discovery of eight such caves during the cleanup highlighted a hidden, but serious aspect of homelessness.

Homelessness in California: A Growing Concern

This phenomenon underscores the broader homelessness crisis in California. In Los Angeles, 300 miles from Modesto, the city has launched an initiative to count homeless individuals. Since 2015, homelessness has surged by 70% in Los Angeles County and 80% within the city. The recent count in LA County indicated over 75,500 homeless people on any given night, marking a 9% increase from the previous year.

A Challenge Without a Clear Solution

Volunteers like Guptill, involved in the cleanup, acknowledge the complexity of addressing this issue. Efforts to fill in the caves might be futile, as new ones could be carved out. The city has since erected temporary fencing and caution tape around the area to prevent further use.

The Need for a Sustainable Solution

The situation calls for more than just temporary measures. It highlights the desperate conditions faced by the homeless and the need for more focused efforts on this pressing social issue. California’s rental market, one of the most expensive in the nation, exacerbates the problem, making sustainable housing solutions crucial.

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