In the West Coast area, much like New York on the East, thousands of homeless live in the underground tunnels of the city they call home. The tunnels were made to transport flood waters away from the population to prevent death and destruction. However, the same tunnels used to prevent death can also cause death.
One man I spoke to told me, "We have seen bodies floating out of the tunnels when they flood."
As we talked more about the tunnels he explained that it makes more sense for him, his girlfriend and dogs to live just outside and above the flood-ways.
In Los Angels, people move into the tunnels to escape the population. You may find someone with severe schizophrenia who hate crowds due to perceptions of people yelling at them or perhaps someone who simply can't take the pressures of the world they once lived in.
11 Miles of service tunnels are under LA, once home to underground drinking joints during the prohibition period. Keep in mind, those are just the service tunnels. Most of those are now empty - besides the homeless who somehow found their way in.
As for the man photographed, at age 21 and recently discharged from the U.S. Army, he has goals in front of him. He stated, "I want to help people, that's what I want to do." Starting a nonprofit to help people where they are as opposed to where some groups want them, is something he highlighted.
In places like San Francisco, California, massive tunnels are beneath your feet. Those tunnels were first built in the early 1900's.
The San Francisco tunnels are a little different than ones in other cities, they were used by the military. Some attached to bunkers while others lead personnel to weaponry once ready to defend the coast.
The man who lives just above the flood line of the passage outside of a tunnel looked towards the littered water and described it as, “A beautiful disaster."
Before I turned to walk away he stated, "I would advise you don't go into the tunnel, some never come out. He then talked about the almost obscene levels of mental illness below the streets.
Today, many of the LA and San Francisco tunnels are used as a canvas for graffiti artist while some are used as a place to sleep.
About 10 to 12 hours from San Francisco, California sit 200 more miles of underground tunnels in Las Vegas, Nevada. Originally, the goal was to build 1,000 miles of tunnels to whisk flood waters away from the casinos. The 1,000 miles never happened and so they became dwellings for the struggling, the mentally ill and the homeless.
In New York, miles and miles of tunneling are the perfect spot for many who call the dark and often wet area home. The tunnels are similar to the ones on the West Coast, but bigger.
In case you are curious, those who live in underground tunnels are often called mole people.