“It’s nothing I’ve ever seen before," Lt. Jeff Puckett of the Orange County Sheriff's Department tells the Orange County Register
. Having removed between 150 and 200 homeless people from an encampment along the Santa Ana River in Southern California earlier this month, officials were clearing the camp when they discovered a trap door in the ground this week. According to the Los Angeles Times
, the plywood door covered in dirt revealed a set of wooden steps that led to a 10-foot-by-10-foot room 6 feet underground. The room, which was empty, was supported by wood beams and tall enough to stand in. It's unclear who built it or what it was used for. "That someone had a whole downstairs living arrangement … it’s weird that they built it without us knowing,” says a woman living in a nearby condominium.
That wasn't the only interesting discovery made by officials since they started clearing the camp earlier this month. More than 1,000 bicycles were found in a tunnel along the concrete river bed. “I’ve been doing this job for 20 years and even I was stunned by that one,” Puckett says. It's unclear how many of the bicycles were stolen, but Puckett says the public will likely get a chance to see if their missing bikes are among them. “Common sense would usually dictate if you have 1,000 bikes in a tunnel, some of them could be stolen,” Puckett says. Officials also found a .357 Magnum handgun with three empty shell casings in it near the camp. They are investigating where it came from. Homeless advocates say that by kicking the homeless people out of the encampment, the county is simply pushing the problem around instead of doing something to solve it. (Read more homeless encampment stories.)