Following the death of a homeless man whose tent caught fire, Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick says it's time to "clear the jungle." Myrick is referring to an encampment of homeless people who have taken over a parcel of vacant land known as "the jungle."
53 year old Richard Sherman died of severe burns yesterday. In announcing the death, Myrick issued a statement that reads in part: "It's time that we work with human service agencies, the community of faith and private individuals to clear the jungle and keep it clear."
Clearing the jungle and steering the homeless inhabitants into social service programs may be an "uphill battle" according to Russell Kellogg who lives in a tent in the jungle. "It's a choice people make to stay down here." Kellogg told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon.
At the Red Cross Homeless Shelter in Ithaca, Tom Sheehan says, "Social Services don't always do what they're supposed to do. They tie you up in red tape and deny you benefits."
Lesha Payne says there's not enough housing because most the available apartments are taken by Cornell University students. "It's a huge problem. there's one shelter and not enough rooms for everybody to stay warm." Payne says.
The Director of Homeless Services for the Red Cross, Aloja Airewele disagrees. "There would never be a problem" taking care of the people who would be displaced from the jungle, Airewele says. He says community providers and the Tompkins County Department of Social Services have been "very cooperative. We are able to work with them."
Many of the people who choose to live in the jungle have drug, alcohol, and mental health problems. Amanda Corey says she's forced to live on the streets because she can not abide by the rules and regulations imposed by agencies designed to help the homeless. "They told me I have to do drug and alcohol (counseling) , I have to do this I have to do that, they won't even let me in the shelter."