On April 16, the Ithaca Police Department received a report of an unresponsive person who did not seem to be breathing. The victim was found dead at the scene.
This incident occurred in an area known to Ithaca, N.Y., locals as “The Jungle,” a mostly uninhabited area in the 200 block section of Cecil A. Malone Drive. For years, The Jungle has been known as the living space of the area’s homeless population, who lived in tents and makeshift shelters to create their own community. However, the area has been a problem for the city for years, citing ongoing illegal incidents of open fires and lack of permits, on top of the sanitary issues. The area has a lack of sanitary facilities and a water source suitable for drinking.
In December 2013, Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick declared that he wanted to try and clear the area after 53-year-old Richard Sherman died of sever burns from a fire in The Jungle. Four months later, people are still occupying and dying in the area. According to the Cornell Daily Sun, officials are naming April 16th incident the sixth “recent” death in the area, and while the IPD has not yet reported on the cause of death, the Sun stated that witnesses claimed the victim had been drinking and using intravenous drugs before his death.
On top of a human-rights conversation, this also sparks questions about how the city is dealing with what has been called its “heroin epidemic,” as many members of The Jungle have struggled with drug abuse and mental health problems.