Ice rescue tied to island called 'The Jungle'

"The Jungle" in Ithaca / photo: Andy Wolf

A dramatic ice rescue on Monday has ties to an island of homeless people in Ithaca.

Earlier this week a homeless man, known only as "Gavin", fell through the ice into the frigid waters of an inlet to Cayuga Lake. Workers at nearby Cayuga Lumber heard his cries for help and were able to pull the man to safety with a rope.

Wade Wykstra says he is "Not sure how long he had been there, but he was getting hypothermic." Wykstra says "His hands were bloody from trying to climb against the steel" (bridge).

You can still see the victim's tracks on the ice, which lead back to a community of homeless men who live year-round in tents on an island on the south side of Ithaca.

C ayuga Lumber manager Steve Corey says the homeless call their community "The Jungle".

T he parcel of land is next to railroad tracks. It is littered with trash, firewood, brush and a number of tents. Heated by propane tanks, the tents serve as year-round shelter for a dozen or so homeless men.

The men include Da n Porter. "It's a good bunch of people." Porter told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon Wednesday, "They tend to their own affairs in life. A few of us have jobs out there. Others, they choose to live where... they can be themselves."

P orter says the homeless have pitched their tents in "The Jungle" since the 1950s. "They have their own type of religion, if you will. They take care of each other and whatever somebody else needs, they pitch in and take care of them."

P orter says the City of Ithaca and the CSX Railroad Company allow them to live there, separate yet close to the rest of society.