Photo: Homeless 'Booby Trap' Their Encampment

Sheriff's deputies stepping foot into a homeless camp along the San Gabriel River discovered some unpleasant surprises, including a board full of nails to keep out intruders. One of the deputies even stepped on it:


Here's another "booby trap" deputies found:


Deputies are sharing details of the camp in South El Monte near the San Gabriel River Trail, and they even offered to escort media outlets to the camp this morning. The department along with a host of other county agencies, including the Department of Mental Health and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers plan to "clean-up" the camp. The department says in a release, "The ultimate goal of this operation is to identify/address any illegal activity, provide social service to those in need and secure the location for the physical cleanup."

Homeless at other camps around the county complain that these clean-ups (or raids) aren't in their interest. Homeless in the Big Tujunga Wash and their advocates in 2010 complained that they lost photographs, food and other personal belongings when the Los Angeles Police Department's equestrian unit marched on their encampment. Last year Long Beach Post talked to homeless people living along the L.A. River who vowed that they would be back after a plan to "remove debris." Many homeless people preferred living on the river in a tent than living in a shelter run by a religious organization with strict rules. One man named Tim told the Post: "...honestly, the reason why I stay down here is because there's more freedom. There you have to go to bed at, like, 8 o'clock at night. You can't do anything. Sometimes to me it feels a little like jail, you know?"

After a raid, the homeless do tend to return again and again to certain areas just off the grid. Caltrans workers had trouble sealing off a "vault" under the 10 Freeway in Baldwin Park where homeless said they enjoyed a respite from police, the public and the elements. Richard Dafoe enjoyed living in the vault and in 2009 he told the Times ahead of a clean-up: "It's basically a safe place to be because the cops can't get into it. They're scared."

Of course, living under a freeway or putting up booby traps seems to only work for so long.