SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s note: This story will air tonight on the Nightbeat.
The City of Hollywood Park is trying to figure out how to clean-up an underground town of homeless people uncovered this week.
Police Chief Shad Prichard said, even as a combat veteran, he’s never seen anything like the conditions he saw in the tunnels discovered.
“I’ve seen quite a bit in my career. But this thing is different,” he said. “Because of the amount of materials and decomposing food and feces and all that. It creates an environment and a smell like you’ve never seen or heard of. It’s unbelievable.”
His officers have been tracking disturbance complaints from businesses and shopping center managers along the highway from 1604, down 281 and to Mecca Drive.
The underground tunnel was uncovered when an officer saw a homeless person crawl in to a drainage tunnel. The officers walked in to find a series of tunnels, leading from one major tunnel about ten feet wide and ten feet tall.
“When you first walk into these tunnels, it just seems like it goes on forever and then it just opens up into a room and then more tunnels and more rooms,” he said. “And it really is like a small little town down there.”
The tunnels are covered with trash, shopping carts, food, feces and furniture. Anything people throw away is being hoarded, Prichard said. Since the tunnel town was uncovered, officers have check on them at least twice a day to clear people out.
Prichard said the homeless population has become more visible since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Since Haven for Hope is not taking in more clients, the chief said there’s nowhere to send the people in the tunnel, a lot of them keep coming back.
But trying to clean up the tunnels is proving to be an equal upward battle, Prichard said.
The tunnel crosses 281 underground, which is TxDOT jurisdiction, and exits into San Antonio’s jurisdiction.
Prichard says leaving that amount of trash inside the drainage tunnel and if it continues to get worse could mean flooding problems for his city.