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Man evicted from makeshift home under Chicago drawbridge

Man evicted from makeshift home under Chicago drawbridge

CHICAGO (AP) -- For three or four years, a homeless man achieved the impossible: He found a cheap place to live on pricey Lake Shore Drive.

Actually, Richard Dorsay didn't live on Lake Shore Drive, he lived under a bridge over the Chicago River. Unless, of course, the drawbridge had to rise. Then his home was way, way over the Chicago River.

On Sunday, Dorsay was evicted from the little wooden home he built into the beams and girders of the underside of the Lake Shore Drive drawbridge after another man was arrested in suburban Streamwood and told police about him.

Inside, authorities found Dorsay's home was clearly more elaborate than the kind of warren other homeless people create in the city's nooks and crannies. He had tapped into the bridge's electricity to power a television, microwave, space heater and a PlayStation video game. There he could relax and, on occasions, turn on a Chicago Bears game, invite friends over and pop open some beers.

"I've never seen this," said Tom Powers, a deputy commissioner for the Chicago Department of Transportation, who was at the bridge Sunday. "Usually, it's somebody trying to get warm at night."

While every home has its quirks, they're not like this. Whenever Dorsay heard the bells that signal the arms of the bridge would soon rise, he held on as the bridge slowly pitched him forward.

"The first time it was scary," he said. "After that, it was almost like riding a Ferris wheel."

Coming and going was different, too. When he left, he'd pop his head out of the hole to look for traffic. Then he'd climb out and go about his routine of panhandling or searching for items to sell at junk yards. He also collects a welfare check.

Dorsay discovered his new home when he spotted a hole in a girder in the midsection of the lower level of the double-decker bridge and climbed in. He liked what he saw and started moving his things, which he'd been hauling around with him, inside. Then he started bringing other things he could fit through the hole, which is roughly 12 inches wide and 36 inches across.

Two other people also moved to the same area of the bridge, and a number of wooden huts with sleeping quarters were built. Dorsay used blankets to camouflage the huts so they'd be hard to spot from the water below.

"You've got to be kind of agile," Dorsay said of his living arrangements. "You can't be an idiot. ... It doesn't take long to figure out what you need to do."

Dorsay's luck ran out after last week when one of the other men got arrested and allegedly told police about him. The man allegedly implicated Dorsay in criminal activity and said he had a gun at his home.

Police came to the bridge Thursday and arrested Dorsay, when he happened to come by. He was taken to Streamwood, where he was released without being charged. He was, however, charged with criminal trespass to property, a misdemeanor. On Sunday, authorities searched his home. No gun was found.

Dorsay's father came by the police station Sunday to take him to his home in Burr Ridge. Several calls to the home went unanswered Monday.

The discovery could lead the city to change its weekly security sweeps of the bridge and block holes in the structure, said Powers, the transportation department deputy commissioner.

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