Shanty town, built-in homeless caves persist along Stanislaus River following Modesto discovery

More makeshift homes located along another river in Stanislaus County

RIVERBANK — Homeless communities have been setting up camps along the Stanislaus River. Another setup in the community of Riverbank follows a similar story we covered in nearby Modesto this week.

Elaborate shanties have been taken down and built right back up many times over the last few years along the Stanislaus River in the Riverbank area. Caves are being dug into the banks below Highways 108 and 120.

"I'm sure everyone who drives down Highway 120 there should be worried about it," says nearby resident Eddie Eagleton.

"As soon as they get kicked out, the night after they get kicked out, they just start digging," Eagleton added. "Doesn't seem like anyone can slow them down or stop them."

Eagleton regularly fishes down the Stanislaus River and has been encountering these people for years. He said he often sees people digging into the river's bank to build caves and even wooden shacks.

"It's pretty amazing what 15-20 people can do in a night or two," Eagleton said. "They got generators down there. They got power, water pumps."

The area was cleaned up last fall, but people remain along the river.

"It's a very high priority. First off, it's pollution. It's a danger to themselves or others if that river happens to rise rapidly," Riverbank Mayor Richard O'Brien said.

The mayor said the city is well aware of the situation. They want to find a solution that doesn't infringe on anyone's rights but that also considers the environmental and public health concerns of the community.

"They have the right to live on public property, according to the courts. The Supreme Court is going to take that, so we'll see there," Mayor O'Brien said.

The mayor added that erosion concerns will be addressed with Caltrans.

Residents and business owners we spoke with are most concerned with the environmental impact that building unregulated shacks could have on the river and surrounding areas.

"The reality is you need an actual solution," said Chris Howe, a business owner in the area.

Over in Modesto along the Tuolumne River, eight different hidden homeless caves were cleared out over the weekend. Temporary barricades have since been put up to keep people out.

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