News photographer, videographer shares heartbreaking story of young homeless woman living in tunnel below Highway 4 in Pittsburg

Homeless woman walking barefoot, with firefighters who were there to extinguish the fire in the tunnel beneath Hwy 4. Photos by Art Ray.

Firefighters extinguish fire in tunnel where she’s been living.

By Art Ray

It’s starting to get cooler at night if you have a place to sleep, you can thank God.

I responded to. a working fire in the underpass beneath Highway 4 at Century Blvd. in Pittsburg. When I got there I saw a young, homeless woman, and I do mean young. She was lying down on a nasty mattress behind some metal bars. The arriving firemen grabbed a saw and cut the gate open so they could put a hose on the fire.

What got me was that the young woman remained on the mattress with smoke pouring out of the tunnel. She didn’t have the capacity to get away from the smoke or fire. Finally, she walked out of the tunnel bare foot stepping on glass, rocks and all kinds of dangerous things. As she passed by me, I asked “where are your shoes?” to which she replied she didn’t have any.

The point of this story is not that I went and got her a pair of shoes from the store but that she has some demons that has her early, 20-year-old self, homeless and living under a highway. She didn’t even have the mental capacity to follow my directions and to walk the one block down to the store to meet me to get the new shoes.

Homeless woman painting her lighter with nail polish, the mattress where she slept surrounded by garbage in the tunnel, and a firefighter at the gated entrance to one side of the tunnel below Hwy 4. Photos by Art Ray.

I had to go driving around to find her. When I did find her, she was sitting on the ground painting a cigarette lighter with fingernail polish. When I walked up to her with the shoe bag she never even looked up to me when I gave her the new blue shoes she was fixated on the nail polish and lighter. That’s when I realized that’s there are bigger issues than being homeless. There are thousands of homeless people that are not thinking straight.

After dropping off the shoes I went to meet with the county’s homeless advocate to see if they could help the young sister. He told me he would leave his office and go find her as soon as he got done checking in another homeless person into the newly opened homeless residence the state just bought from Motel 6.

I’m saying all of this to encourage everyone to find a way they can help another human being instead of just complaining about the homeless problem.

Most police departments and counties have resources you can plug into. Maybe you have a warm coat or shoes you don’t wear anymore. Be a part of the homeless solution not a person that finds pleasure in complaining about the homeless. Trust this. Many of the homeless have issues they are battling in their heads. It’s getting cold out. Are you willing to find a way to get involved? Perhaps it’s through your church. Like they say, it takes a village. We are all our brother’s, or in this case, our sister’s keeper.

This is a story that I needed to photograph and tell. I included a picture of the nasty mattress in the filth someone’s daughter or sister was laying on when I arrived. Notice I didn’t include her face so she could retain some kind of dignity.

Art Ray is owner of Bay News Video providing video footage to Bay Area news stations and online media.

video footage to Bay Area news stations and online media.

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the attachments to this post:


Painting lighter – garbage – firefighter at fenced off entrance


Homeless lady walking shoeless – firefighters – fire


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