In California, rough sleepers were found living in furnished caves dug into the banks of a river 20 feet below street level.
The groups were removed from the eight caves along the Tuolumne River in Modesto over the weekend and cleared of belongings, furniture and 7,600 pounds of trash, filling two trucks and a trailer.
Some of the caves were decorated with murals, had broken floor tiles, and one even had a makeshift fireplace with a chimney.
Modesto police said, “This particular area has been plagued by vagrancy and illegal encampments, which was a concern because these encampments were actually caves dug into the river banks.”
This comes as Los Angeles conducts its annual homeless count to try to get an accurate picture of the city's homeless population, after last year finding that 75,500 homeless people in the county were sleeping rough on any given night.
The caves were difficult to access and police weren't sure how they managed to get so much stuff there
Groups were removed from the eight caves over the weekend
Some of the caves were fully furnished with chairs, clothing and blankets
The community living in the caves had carved makeshift stairs into the hillside leading to them.
The caves reportedly had to be evacuated for safety reasons, resident Tracy Rojas told CBS: “If one of them collapsed, it would be devastating.”
“The whole thing would come down and go into the water.”
She added: “It poses a danger not only to the people who live there, but also to the people who go up there.”
According to Rojas, some of the caves were once fully equipped with bedding, belongings, food, a makeshift mantel, as well as drugs and weapons.
She said: “You can see the hooks on the wall where bottles and other things were hanging.”
“I think more attention needs to be paid to the homeless. They've gotten to the point where you can see they're desperate.”
It wasn't the first time police had cleared the caves, and they are often inhabited.
The caves are dug into the banks of the river at water level and feature steps carved into the bank
Police removed 7,600 pounds of trash from the caves
A team of volunteers came over the weekend to help, but they said they had no solution to stop people moving back in
Volunteer Chris Guptill said: “It's already been proven that people dig these up, so I don't think filling them with material would work.”
“We really don’t have a known solution for how to deal with this.”
It comes as Los Angeles conducts its annual homeless count and tries to figure out how many people there are living on the city's streets.
Over 6,000 Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority volunteers are participating in the three-day count.
They're trying to take a snapshot to determine how many people are unhoused and what health or physical health services they may need.
California is grappling with a “state of emergency” over homelessness as crime rises and businesses abandon some of the state’s downtown areas.
Last year's count estimated that over 75,500 people were homeless in LA County on any given night, a nine percent increase from 2022.
Los Angeles is currently conducting a homeless count to find out how many people in the city are sleeping outside
Last year, over 75,500 people slept outside in LA County every night
Since 2015, homelessness in the county has increased by 70 percent and in the city of Los Angeles itself by 80 percent.
Last year, California had about a third of the nation's homeless population, and Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and other Golden State cities have the most homeless people in the country.
By that count, Los Angeles had the most homeless people in the state at 65,111.
But five other metropolises – San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco – are also among the top 10 hardest hit cities in America, each with around 10,000 homeless people.
According to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, about 70 percent of Californians said homelessness and housing costs were a “major problem” for the state at the time.