Crews Begin Clearing Home of Elderly Hoarders

By Natalie Martinez
|  Tuesday, Jun 1, 2010  |  Updated 8:49 PM CDT
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An elderly pair of South Siders were recently held hostage for weeks -- by their own trash.

An elderly pair of South Siders were recently held hostage for weeks -- by their own trash.

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City crews on Tuesday began clearing the mounds of garbage inside the South Shore home of an elderly couple who family members say mostly cut off communication years ago.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation crew put in a full day making headway on the stacks of trash inside the home after tackling the exterior on Friday. They said they'll continue the cleanup on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the 75-year-old Thelma Gaston and her 76-year-old husband, Jesse, both remain in critical condition at Jackson Park Hospital.

"She has improved. He has improved, but he is still on the ventilator. So he's not able to talk," said neighbor Hattie Fields, who had just spoken to family members on the phone.

The situation revealed itself May 24th, when Chicago police found the couple trapped among the trash in their home while doing a well-being check. Neighbors said while they often saw Mr. Gaston outdoors, they had not seen Mrs. Gaston in years. Some didn't even know a woman lived in the house.

Thelma Gaston, a former teacher, may have fallen through a mound of belongings and gotten trapped, said Kevin MacGregor, a fire department spokesman. When her husband, a retired zoologist, tried to rescue her, he got stuck too.

"There had not been any communication in the last five or 10 years. They kept to themselves," Fields said.

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