Cleanup begins at couple's trash-filled home

June 1, 2010 2:23:15 PM PDT
Cleanup crews removed piles of debris inside and outside the home of a couple trapped under trash last week.

Workers had to wear protective suits and masks when they arrived at the home Tuesday morning.

Jesse Gaston, 76, and his wife Thelma, 79, were rescued from their home, which was packed with garbage.

The City of Chicago received a court order last week which gave the Department of

Streets and Sanitation permission to clean up the Gastons' home.

Workers began last Friday with the outside, and on Tuesday, they moved into the home.

The house, in the 1500-block of E. 69th, is so filled with trash that the clean-up could take days.

Blankets - dishes - even a weed wacker were found in the house. For hours, five Streets and Sanitation workers hauled garbage can after garbage can from the South Shore home. On Tuesday, they just scratched the surface with the first floor of the two flat.

"I'm a little amazed at the contents," said niece Mary Funches. "It's pretty much everything up in there - I mean, car doors!"

Funches and her family came to observe the cleanup and to see if there was anything salvageable from the home where the Gastons were found living in filth.

"Maybe tools, something like that," said Funches. "That's about it."

A week ago, a neighbor became concerned and called the city for a well-being check. When police arrived, they had to clear out a path of garbage just to get inside. Jesse and Thelma were found trapped underneath mounds of trash. While the couple kept to themselves, neither their family nor the Gastons' neighbors had any idea the they were living in squalor.

"I'm mainly glad that the people are OK who were staying in there," said neighbor Lafabian Anderson.

The Gastons were taken to Jackson Park Hospital in critical condition. Their condition has been upgraded to stable.

A hospital spokesperson says the Gastons are no longer in ICU and are now in the acute care section of the hospital.

The Gastons' relatives doubt they will allow the couple to move back to their South Shore home.


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