Homeless Man Robert Downs' Camouflaged Shack Shielded Him From Authorities for Months, Police Say



One solution to homelessness: Build your own house in the woods.

That's allegedly what Robert Downs, 51, did at the Tujunga Ponds Wildlife Sanctuary in Sunland, Calif. Using materials he purchased from a nearby Home Depot, Downs was able to build a shed (pictured above and below) complete with four bunk beds, tables, shelves and fire extinguishers, authorities said. Outside the shack, police also found a rock patio, tables and a barbecue grill. And thanks to his camouflage tarp and the makeshift home's remote location, it reportedly remained undiscovered for several months.

That was until authorities stumbled upon Downs' mini-compund during a regular patrol, said deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Parks Bureau.

According to an agency press release: "It is illegal to be in a Los Angeles County Park after dark, let alone to build a structure and reside there."

Downs' run-in with the law got worse when deputies discovered eight marijuana plants nearby. He was arrested for cultivation of marijuana and removing plants and trees from a county park, the release said.

Downs reportedly told deputies that he had been living in the wildlife sanctuary for more than a year and had spent the last eight months building the structure. Despite the hard work that apparently went into the construction, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works will remove it over the next two weeks.

Downs isn't the only homeless person who's purportedly used creative ways to find a place to live. A homeless man in Ormond, Fla., was accused of posing as a homeowner on Craigslist and renting out a vacant house. He was reportedly collecting rental deposits from tenants to put toward a place of his own. And homeless people in New York reportedly got training by a tax-supported nonprofit on how to permanently -- and illegally -- occupy vacant, city-owned properties.


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