The entrance was open, a metal ladder led the way down to the entrance, we were able and eager to enter. As we entered into the tunnels daylight quickly vanished and transformed into complete and utter darkness.
With backpacks and duffel bags full of vitamins, clothes, water and food, three individuals on a mission switched on their flashlights and marched into the unknown darkness to provide help. For me it was a new level of helping others, for Project 50/50 it was just another day doing what ever it takes to help others.
The beginning of the tunnel seemed hopeful for finding people to give items to. The cool concrete tunnel floors had remains of fast food wrappers, washed up blankets and empty soda cans, but no people yet.
We came to a “crossroads” four different tunnels to venture through- we chose one and headed through the darkness.
The dry concrete flooring we had been walking on soon filled with an inch of water and sand. Water poured into the tunnel at various points from drain runoffs in the city and leaked from cracks above head. A constant flow of cold water ran through our shoes and underneath our feet.
The trash we had once seen at the start of the tunnel was now gone, completely washed away from the running water. Every so often the walls held onto the only remains of evidence of life underground: brightly painted murals of graffiti, tags and directional markings of which way the exits were.
Once we got to a spot where the water flowed a good three inches deep we headed back up the tunnel from which we came and crossed over to the next one. For the next hour and a half or so we switched back and fourth walking from one tunnel to the next, but still no inhabitants.
It has already been well documented that the tunnels under the streets of the city are flooded with individual living quarters of those with no place else to go. After the publication of that knowledge however, city officials have made attempts to clear the tunnels of those living there. While they may still live in areas of the city’s underground world, the tunnels we had entered and trekked through over the two hour time period were completely empty.
Disappointedly we made our way back to where we had entered, and slowly the evening’s light pierced the darkness. A light at the end of the tunnel was not a metaphor, but a literal statement. We threw the backpacks up to the ground and climbed out of the concrete tunnels, dissatisfied that the bags were still full but hopeful at the thought that they would be emptied, maybe not at this moment or under city streets, but eventually someone in need would be given some help.
Somewhere around two hours were spent underground, and although it was a huge disappointment to not have found a single individual it was fascinating to see the elements that filled the tunnels and imagine that to some, that is home.