HOUSTON (TheBlaze/AP) -- Four men found living in "deplorable conditions" in a Houston garage on Friday told police that they were being held captive after being lured by promises of alcohol and cigarettes so that their captor could cash their public-assistance checks, authorities said.
Three of the men were malnourished and taken to a hospital after being discovered by officers responding to a 911 call about the home, Houston police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said.
Sgt. Steven Murdock described the living conditions as like a "dungeon." It has also been referred to as a "prison room."
Investigators were still trying to determine how long the men lived there, but they said it may have been weeks. One of the men claims to have been there for ten years.
Authorities investigate a home Friday, July 19, 2013, in Houston where police say four homeless men were found in deplorable conditions. Credit: AP
Silva said the men told investigators they were forced to live in the garage - which included just one chair and no bed - so their captor could cash their assistance checks.
"They clearly stated to us they were being kept against their will," Silva said.
Local ABC affiliate KTRK reported that when police arrived, the door was nailed shut and there was trash "everywhere." The men were described as around 79, 54, 74 and about 65-years old, respectively.
Silva said one person has been detained but no charges have been filed. The individual didn't seem to be living in the house, she said. Four women were also found living in the house, three of whom appeared to have mental disabilities, Silva said. She described the other woman as a caretaker. Unlike the garage, she described the living conditions inside the home as more normal.
A neighbor called authorities Friday morning expressing concern about men in the house in North Houston. Murdock, the police sergeant, said at least one of the men is a military veteran. He described them as malnourished and "almost invalids."
Neighbors watch from their yard as authorities investigate a home, right background, Friday July 19, 2013, in Houston where police say four homeless men were found in deplorable conditions. Credit: AP
Alberta Ewing, whose brother lives next door, said the men looked "very weak" and were hauled out on stretchers by paramedics. She said that one of them had approached her asking for help just weeks earlier while she was cooking outside, but that she didn't take him seriously because he wasn't crying and she couldn't get him to explain further.
"He said, `Could you help me?'" Ewing recalled. "I said, `What's the problem?"
Neighbors said they occasionally saw the men sitting outside. Virginia Rogers, who lives five houses away, said she greeted them with a wave when she drove by.
"I'm shocked," Rogers said. "I'm baffled. I didn't have a clue."
The men were found in a working-class, residential neighborhood of one-story, brick homes. Harris County property records show the home was built in 1969 and is about 1,400 square feet.
Police were going in and out of the house's bright purple door and black gate Friday afternoon, removing evidence as neighbors stood outside watching.
A portion of the block was cordoned off with police tape.
KHOU-TV has video of the residence, via CNN: