Ithaca begins campaign to evict homeless

"The Jungle" / photo: Jim Kenyon

The City of Ithaca is preparing to evict homeless men and women from two illegal encampments, spreading fear to an area known as "The Jungle."

According to City of Ithaca attorney Dan Hoffman, the city has prepared eviction notices for two homeless compounds that are also called "The Jungle," but are separate from the main homeless community that's located on land owned by a railroad.

Hoffman says those two encampments are on city property, which does not allow camping, open burning and other violations of city ordinance. Hoffman says the city's upcoming eviction will not effect the main portion of "The Jungle," but he adds, "Something may happen later."

Hoffman says the city is "aware of multiple violations", but he says the situation is "complicated" because the land is owned by the Norfolk Southern Railroad.

CNY Central's Jim Kenyon visited the area in December after one of its homeless occupants had to be rescued after falling through the ice . "The Jungle", as it is called, has been a fixture in Ithaca since the '50's according to people who live nearby. During the summer, dozens of people will converge on the patch of land, setting up tents and other makeshift shelters and forming their own community.

Kenyon returned to the Jungle Friday and met with several homeless people living there. Carmen DeChellis called the Jungle, "a place of security, a place of friendship, a place of" DeChellis suggested that it might be more cost effective for taxpayers if the city were to leave them alone. "Instead of being on the government dole, we choose to be here." he said.

Another homeless man who gave his name as Peewee asked, "Where we gonna go? We got nowhere to go after they run us off."

According to John Ward, the Director of Homeless Services for the Red Cross, "We are working with the city, Human Services Coalition and the Department of Social Services" to help people find shelter.

Ward tells Kenyon he believes the city intends to evict the homeless to make way for development on the Southwest side of Ithaca. He also says residents have long complained about "open burning, the lack of sanitation, safety and security."

The evictions of the two homeless compounds outside the Jungle are expected to begin on September 15th.