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Homeless driven from squatters camp along San Gabriel River

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Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and Caltrans workers are flushing homeless people from inside a vast vault under the 10 Freeway near the San Gabriel River where it is believed a small community of people have been living for years.

Denizens call it “the cave,” and it is both a squatters camp and a shooting gallery for heroin addicts, accessible only by a narrow opening high in an outside wall of the structure, which is part of the support system for the freeway.

On Wednesday, as authorities made their way with flashlights amid mountains of trash inside the pitch-black dungeon, workers found syringes, knives, an M-16 ammunition clip and a man sleeping near a decomposing animal.

More photosIn several crawlspaces, authorities also found baby rattles and children’s toys that led to speculation that at some point children had lived there.

Deputy Paul Archambault, who is leading the cleanup effort along the riverbed, said the place has been home to dozens of people and that two babies have been born there in recent years. On Friday, Caltrans workers plan to seal the vault with solid metal plates in the hopes of making it impregnable.

Richard Dafoe, 56, who is known as “The Wizard” for his ample white beard and wild hair, said he has been living in and around the Cave for about 10 years and has never seen a child in there.

He said the baby paraphernalia is just bric-a-brac scavenged from recycling expeditions.

This morning he was gathering up his belongings and trying to decide where he’d spend the night. The Cave was a refuge from police, he said.

“It’s basically a safe place to be because the cops can’t get into it,” Dafoe said. “They’re scared. They can’t even go in without a whole lot of backup.”

Dafoe doubted that whatever steps Caltrans took to seal the Cave would be enough to keep people out. In time, he said he would find another way in.

“I don’t say we’re gonna go in right away, but it’s gonna happen sooner or later,” he said.

-- Christopher Goffard and Corina Knoll

Photo: Caltrans Michael Gill holds a light inside "The Cave," a vast vault under the 10 Freeway near the San Gabriel River in El Monte. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

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Comments () | Archives (28)

"Flushing homeless people"?

Stay classy, L.A. Times.

The homeless shelters in Los Angeles are SO HORRIFYING people will do anything to stay out of them!

Is this what we; as a society, have come to? People forced to exist in darkness and isolation; without any hope of anything better?
Shame on all of us.

What a wasted use of our resources.

Why can't these people just go and live in foreclosed homes like everyone else?

Another indication of how short we're falling in spending wisely and helping our homeless population get care and treatment. Very sad. Maybe we'll turn things around on this overwhelming problem now that there's a new sheriff (prez) in town. I'm hopeful.

Over the last 30 years, after the federal government had successfully eradicated the public bathhouses and sleeping facilities offered to homeless people for a low cost (YMCA, for example), and replaced them with the homeless-shelter system now in place, homelessness has grown larger year by year. Homeless people are not commodities like merchandise, they are breathing, living, feeling, and needy HUMAN BEINGS, who deserve free or sliding-scale affordable housing, free health care and 'round-the-clock addiction-recovery services, all with the emphasis on "FREE." Our country will one day pay the price for its inhumanity and lack of compassion towards our lesser brothers and sisters!

I agree with another comment that L.A. shelters are HORRIBLE and people would rather live in these conditions.

The fact that such a place has homeless people living there in such conditions is a repudiation of our efforts to help the homeless. As a society, we need to do better than this. Closing the entrance is a temporizing measure of little help. Looking at this as a purely police problem is missing the point, although the police should help make the place safe. How many of the residents are ill, and what is being done to correct this? What are the existing shelters doing wrong?

So the gestapo thugs with a badge can't find anything better to do than to harrass the homeless? I wonder how these pathetic lowlife punks with badge can sleep at night. I'd bet that since a prerequisite for even wanting to become a pig is that they are of extremely low intelligence, and that they must also be megalomaniacal control freaks, that they probably sleep like babies.
Is it any wonder why more and more people are shooting at them first? They've really gone out of thier way to earn it.

How shameful. The richest industrialized nation, and we have children living in squalor under freeways. This should be a scandal.

i have much sympathy for the homeless. but explain to me, what are we supposed to do when so many of them either refuse regular help, or are mentally ill? one thing i noticed watching the video, some of these people were hispanic, which is interesting because i often hear that there are no hispanic homeless, "they're only white or black".

i suppose it is a legal issue here - if something happens to one of the homeless they can sue the city. but really, these poor people had found themselves a home of sorts. why drive them from it? and what was offered them in exchange?

With the US chosen regime there is no money for these people but there is plenty of billions for chosen wars and chosen banksters from wall street.

Truly we have a war crazed federal government more concerned with its empire and sending billions to Israel and Egypt etc. But some make work for the home less and others out of work is not in their priority.

According to republicans these people are there from their own choice and deserve nothing. Of course the chosen bankster and chosen insurance companies who lost billions must be made up by our ruling regime. The freemarket lectures of the republicans seem to never lift up their eyes for the scamsters of wall street.

but for those who have nothing get nothing. And for those who had billions they get billions.


If the Bums return the Police should just spray inside the opening with Bear-size Pepper Spray!

If the people are not bothering anyone, and feels safe living there. Why can't they stay? L.A let folks live on Skid Row and these people are being shot and killed everyday. Caltran should help them clean the place up, and add more resources for them. It would beat living in a filthy shelter, getting shot by racist gangsters, or being beat to death by stupid kids.

We should place homeless like they do in Japan, along the river banks. Homeless construct there own homes and keep them real tidy. Social workers or charitable organizations can administer to them there. This way they are not wandering around all over the city. They would be free to leave so it wouldn't be a concentration camp. Beats the "Descent" and "CHUD" scenarios of this cave.

The answer for you "D. Peters" is a resounding "YES"! and yes again.
The greatest potential for humanity has failed yet one more time.
My only question to lighten this horrific me-generation statement is: was this a 'foreclosure' or an 'eviction'?

Another story about government agencies going out of their way to inflict misery on the homeless. Well, what goes around comes around. The effort to bring children into it to get public support for this oppression was transparent and pathetic. I didb't believe it for a minute. I did believe some of the homeless used drugs in the cave. Call it a shooting gallery if it makes you feel better about closing it down; it was still a home for people who are welcome almost nowhere. And lots of people use drugs at home--in virtually every community.

Back in the early 90s Rudy Guliani closed down a more than 20+ year homeless encampment under a freeway and inside a vault near an underground rail line in Manhattan. I remember the same type of articles and the whining about the homeless and where they would go. In the case in Manhattan fires had been occurring in the area for years potentially threatening the stability of the highway overpass and the rail line, I would imagine beside clearing out the homeless this would be a concern here. Last thing Caltrans and LA County need is to have homeless die in basically a vault and have a major highway become inaccessible because they stood by and did nothing. Yes, the homeless should have a place to go and services but not in such a vault under a highway. That it was allowed to go as such for so long speaks of someone afraid of being non PC on what is really a public safety issue.

What was the point in this?
Why were these people minding their own business hassled by the government? WHAT DID THIS ACCOMPLISH?

All the more reason the to cut government ... it's the enemy of the people.

Government is just one group holding a gun on another.

Hopefully before long many ex civil servants, such as tax collectors, radar operating & parking police and legislators will be in line to use those facilities. I can see the placards now..."Will tax you for food" and "Parking tickets for food"....

One person comments that they should not spend the time to close the homeless spot, another says we should be ashamed people live like this, still another makes a comment that the homeless shelters are a disgrace, Still another is stupid enough to think that there's a difference in who's in the white house to the people living on the street, the man interviewed had been living there for over 12 years, that means, 3 years of Clinton, 8 years of Bush and one year of Obama, and he's still homeless and under a bridge, they live here because they want to shoot up and they won't let them do that at a shelter

Here's an idea: all you people who think the homeless are wonderful, give them a room in your house.

Thanks LACS and Caltrans for cleaning up this threat to law-abiding taxpayers.

Lets ship them to Africa where Bill Gates and the Gitterati can take care of them..or ship them over to Octo Mom

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