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America’s Homeless Becoming “Mole People”


By James Donahue


Before the current economic collapse the problem of homelessness was one of America’s best kept secrets. We suspect authorities went out of their way to suppress unemployment records and cover up the growing problems that came as a result.


Before the fat cats at Goldman Sachs and other big banking and money lending institutions got their hands in the federal till there was an exodus of major manufacturing companies out of the United States and into overseas sites where they could escape the high cost of labor, taxes and just doing business.


Even then workers remained unemployed so long they were dropping out of the list of people eligible for unemployment benefits. Thus they were no longer being counted. Even with the extension of benefits by the Obama Administration, analysts warn that many more will be dropping off the rolls by about December this year.


The effects of this have been devastating. Look in just about any residential neighborhood in the country and there are countless homes up for sale. Some ominous signs proclaim bank foreclosure sales. Once tossed in the street, where are these people going?


We find that the lucky ones are moving in with parents, relatives or friends. Some are squatting in abandoned buildings. Others are the visible homeless on the streets of major cities, sleeping on old blankets under cardboard boxes and begging for coins during the day.


But there are thousands of other homeless that are unaccounted for. Where did they go?


An answer to this puzzle was uncovered recently in Oakland, California, when fire fighters there were called to extinguish a fire in subterranean vaults deep under the city.


As fire fighters donned oxygen masks and gear to enter the vaults, they were met by people climbing up out of them to escape the plumes of billowing smoke that were rolling out of local storm drains and sidewalk cracks.


The fire originated in some old wood inside an “underground city” of homeless people residing within vaults created by concrete retaining walls holding up Twelfth Street along the south shore of Lake Merritt, said Fire Lieutenant J. P. Troy.


The people living there had used some ingenuity to tap into power lines under the street to run refrigerators, televisions, stereos and other appliances. Also found were chairs, tables and other fixings showing that the vaults were home to the homeless.


Troy said the concrete vaults measured 30 by 100 feet in size. Not all were inhabited. He said one vault had an elaborate kitchen with a butane stove, bottles of water, a table, ice chest and food.


The term “mole people” was coined by writer Jennifer Toth in her book The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City.


Toth claims her book describing the lives of several dozen people living in abandoned subway and railroad tunnels under New York in the early 1990s is a true story. She said she estimated at the time there were as many as 5,000 homeless people living in what she described as a multilevel labyrinth of tunnels and dark caverns under Grand Central and Penn stations.


According to Toth, many of the residents of the tunnels lived much like the homeless seen lying under cardboard boxes on the streets of most major cities. But others, she said developed sizable communities complete with leaders or “mayors,” elaborate social structures, and even schools for the children.


Like Oakland, the “moles” of New York were tapping into electric power grids to get heat, lights and power for other purposes. They used steam from leaking pipes for heat, hot showers and even laundry. “Runners” were sent regularly to the surface to scavenge food and other supplies, but most of the residents preferred staying in the tunnels, escaping contact with the outside world.


Toth wrote about these strange underworld communities that allegedly existed in the years prior to the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington. It would be difficult to comprehend what is going on today in those same tunnels, not only under New York and Oakland, but in nearly every major city in the United States if not the rest of the world.


If somebody built a tunnel or left an underground vault under any of America’s cities, you can bet it is a shelter for some homeless soul . . . if not many souls today. Such is the state of our nation in this dark modern world.