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Tompkins County forces Ithaca to clean up homeless encampments after deeming it public health hazard

  • / Updated:
  • Staff Report 

Tompkins County has ordered the city of Ithaca to clean up a land area known as “The Jungle,” which hosts homeless encampments and has become a public health hazard due to accumulated garbage, including hypodermic needles, bicycles, and shopping carts. The county’s Environmental Health Division issued a notice earlier this month requiring city officials to draft a cleanup plan by May 10. The affected area is a city-owned strip near Six Mile Creek and flood control infrastructure for Cayuga Lake.

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In response to the county’s directive, Ithaca’s city management is working on an operational plan to address both immediate and future concerns. This plan includes specific protocols for managing different types of city property affected by unsanctioned encampments. City Manager Deb Molehoff detailed the efforts at an April 10 Common Council meeting, highlighting the need for a coordinated approach to manage and prevent illegal encampments.

The cleanup operation is expected to be costly, with estimates ranging from $125,000 to $150,000, and may not be completed until the end of 2024. Molehoff also proposed the creation of an encampment response coordinator position to oversee the ongoing management and cleanup efforts, stressing the city’s limited resources but strong community support for addressing the issue.