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Abandoned Homeless Village Discovered Among Trees on Midway Plaisance

By Sam Cholke | April 21, 2015 5:01am

Volunteers found five structures built in the woods along the railroad tracks on the Midway Plaisance Sunday. All photos DNAinfo/Sam Cholke.

HYDE PARK — Volunteers spent 12 hours on Sunday dismantling an abandoned homeless village nestled among the trees of the Midway Plaisance.

Workers on Sunday found five structures bolted to trees and sunken into the hillside where the Midway meets the Canadian National and Metra railway between 59th and 60th streets.

“I started pulling out vegetation, and under every leaf was another suitcase or another blanket,” said Louise McCurry, president of the Jackson Park Advisory Council. 

McCurry, who is helping resurrect the Midway Advisory Council, and others hacked through the brush and found five shacks, mattresses, a ladder, old doors and a slew of “dead critters” next to the tracks.

She said crews were able to bring down two of the collapsing structures and found dead rats and other animals inside, but three shacks remain standing. McCurry said the area is likely the source of the rats that she’s heard neighbors complaining about.

There were signs of homeless people living in the woods in the fall, but the park lacked an advisory council to coordinate cleaning the area up.

Whoever was living in the woods now appears to be gone, according to McCurry, who had been watching for the clear sign of vacancy.

“The garbage cans were not there,” McCurry said.

City garbage cans had gone missing from the Midway and Jackson Park, and one could catch glimpses of blue and green bins near the trees last fall. The garbage cans served as a makeshift armoire, according to McCurry and others who have poked around among the trees.

“I think what’s happening there now is [other] people are dumping their garbage,” McCurry said. “It’s a horrible mess — it’s become the Hyde Park dumping ground.”

Crews from Canadian National Railway were scheduled to come remove the debris Tuesday.

McCurry is leading an effort to get Hyde Parkers interested in the Midway again, one of the largest parks in the neighborhood. But it's often overlooked for help by community members because the University of Chicago, which lines the Midway, is very active nearby, and Jackson and Washington parks also need help and compete for volunteers' time.

McCurry has a core now of four members and the Midway Advisory Council will officially resume its watch over the park at 6 p.m. Monday at the field house, 1130 Midway Plaisance North, when it elects its first officers in more than a decade.

All five structures were in various stages of decay, with one burned with dead animals inside.

Volunteers found mattresses, ladders and other garbage in an abandoned homeless village on the Midway Plaisance on Sunday.

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