Residents leave east Indianapolis homeless camp

Homeless camp moved
Homeless camp cleared

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - A well-known, but seldom seen, homeless camp is deserted. "The Jungle" existed for decades, tucked inside a wooded area behind some east side business.

Dozens of homeless people came from nowhere to make The Jungle their home. It appears as if most of them went back to where they came from.

Jessie Laudig sang as he looked over the empty camp.

"Oh look at me, what a mess, I get caught up in things that mater," he said.

What matters most to Laudig, he said, is finding hope. He lost it when he lost his home.

Although it didn't look like much, "This was my hope, a lot of people's hope," he said. "It was clean, it was nice. You take our hope, you lose it."

For decades, The Jungle was home to the homeless. As many as 60 people at a time lived in tents and various makeshift shelters.

Kathy Albright, a homeless advocate, worked a dozen years, helping them and others.

"You are taking a community that is dysfunctional," she said.

They came together and tried to make it work, and it did work.

But there were drugs and alcohol, along with unsanitary - if not abysmal - living conditions. The land owner, CSX Railroad, apparently had enough and ordered everyone to move.

By Friday morning's deadline, only a handful of people were left. Zackery Mendenhall loaded his possessions into the truck of one of the volunteers helping out.

"This experience has helped me out a lot," he said. "You learn to rely on yourself."

Mendenhall lived in the camp for about a year.

"The law is the law. This is private property. It is time for me to start a new beginning," he said.

Mendenhall said he has a job and has a house lined up to live in.

It appears most of The Jungle's residents had no alternative, other then moving to other homeless camps.

Albright wishes there was real help for them.

"Give us a piece of land where we can put some homeless people and bring services to them," she said. "I know the city doesn't want them downtown. Give us a plot of land where we can work and help our friends."

Laudig calls shelters "jails" and when he works, it's for cash, off the books.

"If you don't show you got a job or you are working, you are out," he said.

So now he's out on the streets, looking for a home.

"When they get notice they have to leave, people lose hope," Albright explained, "and if you know anything, when people lose hope, they've lost everything."

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