A homeless man in Los Angeles was found living in an underground utility vault outside the Japanese American National Museum.
The museum’s Chief of Financial Offices told KTLA5 that “the security guards noticed the incident and called our director of security.”
“We take the safety of our employees and our guests very seriously,” the CFO said.
Camera footage shows the man lifting a vault’s panels from the ground to stuff his belongings inside, before personally entering another slightly larger vault a few yards away.
While the vault was not directly connected to the museum, officials claimed that it can be unsafe for anybody to remain inside for long periods of time: “Given the location of the vault, it’s immediately under the museum and the potential for a very severe incident,” Bill Fujioka, the museum’s Chair for the Board of Trustees, told ABC 7. “There’s gas lines down there. There’s electrical lines down there. A fire could have been started down there. We just have to be careful.”
Leonard Redway, the head of security, shared that “The night I found the gentleman down there, he was a little shorter than I am. He was able to stand up completely down there [in the utility vault]. He said he sleeps down here. Drinks water from the spigot … and he said this is his place.”
The “place” makes up to be around 2 feet wide, 4 feet long, and 5 feet deep, according to NBC12.
When the Los Angeles Police Department arrived at the utility vault, they found drugs and a plastic gun among the man’s belongings.
Utility vaults are underground spaces used to store equipment for public utilities, and are usually locked to be inaccessible to the public. In this case, however, the vaults were not sealed because workers had needed access for various reasons including maintenance.
Officials later confirmed the two vaults accessed by the homeless man were locked and re-secured on Friday, according to KTLA5.
The New York Post found that by June 2023, 171,000 people were homeless in California, which makes up around 30% of the entire country’s homeless population.
The state’s large size coupled with its milder weather compared to other parts of the country may be at least part of the reason for the state’s large homeless population.