Homeless individuals were recently discovered living in 20-foot-deep caves by the Tuolumne River in California. Last weekend, the Modesto Police Department partnered with volunteers to remove thousands of pounds of garbage from the caves.
According to CBS 13, the dangerous underground caves were accessed by a makeshift staircase that was carved into hills along the Tuolumne River. Highlighting the dangerous nature of the homeless caves, Tracy Rojas, a local resident, warned CBS 13 that if the caves collapsed, the consequences would be “devastating.”
Photos shared on social media by The New York Post show one of the caves filled with crates of supplies, a table, a chair, and shelves of food.
The Modesto Police Department released a statement regarding the homeless caves, explaining that the department partnered with a volunteer organization called “9.2.99” for a “joint clean-up operation” near the Tuolumne River.
“This particular area has been plagued by vagrancy and illegal camps, which have raised concerns due to the fact that these camps were actually caves dug into the riverbanks,” the department wrote.
The Modesto Police Department noted that the homeless individuals in the local caves and homeless camps were notified prior to the clean-up operation and that the individuals were offered services.
“During the operation on Saturday, a total of 7,600 lbs of trash, as well as two truckloads and a trailer of garbage, were successfully removed from the area,” the police department added.
Video footage shared on social media provides an in-depth look at the homeless caves.
Chris Guptill, a volunteer for Operation 9.2.99, told CBS 13 that eight caves were cleared during the joint clean-up operation over the weekend. Guptill noted the surprise of the volunteers when they discovered the massive amount of belongings and trash stored in the caves.
“We had a hard time figuring out how they got so much stuff down in there, considering how hard it was to get it up the hill and out,” he said.
While the caves were cleared by police and volunteers from 9.2.99, Guptill warned that residents would likely return to the caves.
“We really don’t have a known solution on how to deal with it,” Guptill said. “It’s already been proven that people will dig these out, so I don’t think filling them in with any material would work.”