the shantytown home of Pink Bellamy

Pink Austin Bellamy is, from a technical standpoint, homeless. He has been homeless for 16 years, living in a squatters village behind the Pathmark in Hopelawn, NJ. If you were to visit this enclave you would find everything you would probably expect to find: garbage and broken pieces of furniture, dozens of feral cats, signs warning you to keep out, and of course numerous homeless people living in makeshift housing constructed from boxes and various pieces of scavenged junk.

What you wouldn’t expect to find is a little bungalow that looks like something out of a fairy tale. This is Pink’s home, a home built from refuse he scavenged from supplies found at local building sites. The small house is solidly constructed and even features a fireplace to keep warm during winter. It resembles a gingerbread house, though he abhors that comparison. “It’s a castle” said a resident homeless person. A castle complete with a moat made form concrete.

The house has a fence, plastic flowers, a bench to sit on, and is painted in pastel colors. It resembles something out of beautiful dream. How ironic then, that it is surrounded by so much sadness. The area is, after all, a refuge for the homeless, and it has been for decades. Some of the people living there claim to have called this place home since the 1960’s. In February 2005 the town had had enough. They notified the homeless in the area that they had to leave and find another place to live. They were given till March 1st, although this was extended to March 15th. I visited Mr Bellamy on March 15th, but was confronted by some not entirely friend neighbors of his. Since the town made its decision, reporters had stopped by in droves, and “they don’t give one damn about us, they just want their story!” bellowed one homeless man.

I spoke briefly with the man and he stated that Pink was not interested in speaking to the press, nor were any of the rest of them. They just wanted to be left alone. The man, wearing army fatigues, several layers of clothes, sporting too much facial hair, and spitting frequently made it clear that they had no interest in speaking to anyone. “You got a camera?” He asked. “No,” I said, burying my hands deeper into my coat pocket where my digital camera lay snug and away. “Good, cause I see a camera, I’m gonna stick it up your ass like a fucking beacon!”

Speaking somewhat unsteadily, and occasional breaking into a tearful voice the homeless man expressed a lack of understanding why the town was doing this. Pink was quoted in the paper as saying, “I knew this would happen one day, why did they choose the middle of winter to do it? Mr Nolan (township law director), he says I haven’t got a home. To him, I’m a homeless man. But I don’t think of myself as a homeless man.”

The March 16th newspaper indicated the this time, the deadline will have meaning. “I’ll stay here till the day they knock on my door and tell me to get out cause they’re knocking it down. I’m gonna go to Myrtle Beach, SC, and if I can’t find a place to live, I’ll do what I always do, I’ll sleep on the beach.” Already bulldozers have come in and knocked down some of the shanty houses built by Bellamy’s neighbors. And lest you need any further reminder that this man and his house should not be romanticized simply because of it’s storybook appearance, a headless body was found in the woods close to the homeless village. Said one local resident, “I was real shook up. I thought I was in a real live Stephen King novel.”

The town is working, along with local Catholic Missions, to help find housing for the men, as well ways to get them the medical care that they made need. Will the town bulldoze the storybook house that for 16 years has been a home to a homeless man? Will Pink make his way to South Carolina? That chapter of this tale has yet to be written. If it is bulldozed,  “That house, fixed up and in the right location would be exceptional,” Jung said. “It is such an adorable home. To think he could do all that out here.” a local artist has preserved it’s memory in an oil painting. A day earlier, the artists met with township officials with the hopes of preserving the home. They even offered to buy it so Bellamy could stay there. With no deal in place, Jung said the artists decided they could preserve Bellamy’s home in a portrait. “That house, fixed up and in the right location would be exceptional,” Jung said. “It is such an adorable home. To think he could do all that out here.”

The pictures below were taken one week later on Palm Sunday. Apparently I visited Tuesday, they were out Wednesday and at dawn on Thursday, the bulldozers came in. Seeing the destruction of their homes is almost as sad as the fact that they were living like that to begin with.

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