under bridge dwelling

Ten years ago, with nowhere else to go, suburban native Richard Dorsay struck upon an idea to live rent-free right in the heart of one of the busiest cities in the world in a homemade residence built into the beams and girders of an urban bridge (no, not the one pictured above).

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No simple squatter, he spent years building his shack from scrap wood and tapping into the creature comforts enjoyed in nearby high-rise (and higher-priced) Lake Shore Drive condos, tapping the electrical grid for energy to power a space heater, television set, video game station and microwave.

underbridge homeless shack

As it lifted and lowered, Dorsay became adept at hanging on to his home as it tilted up and down with the drawbridge. When he needed to wash off or fetch water, he discovered the bridge tender’s office frequently unoccupied and often unlocked.

under bridge boats chicago

Formerly nomadic, hauling his gear from shelter to shelter, he had first found this secret space after spotting a small hold on the underside of the bridge, leading to a larger interior volume within. Over time, he added more and more accessories and decor to his unlikely abode, and boasted having friends over for beers and TV.

under lowered bridge house

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your perspective, his makeshift house was eventually discovered and he was ousted (and arrested), and the city has since kept a closer eye on bridge structures for similar homesteads.

From the Chicago Tribune:

“A man who was found living inside the Lake Shore Drive bridge last December pleaded guilty to criminal trespassing Monday, officials said.”

“Richard Dorsay, 36, was sentenced to two years of conditional release, 30 days in the Cook County sheriff’s work alternative program and 120 days in jail by Circuit Judge Mark Ballard, officials said. Dorsay was credited with 15 days time served, state’s attorney spokesman Tom Stanton said.”

“When the police found Dorsay his unique living arrangement included a TV and a space heater. Dorsay said he had lived in the bridge for more than three years before he was discovered. But city transportation officials said that would have been impossible because officials regularly check the bridges.”