William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Thu, 21 Jul 2005 12:29:18 -0400

Police clearing out homeless men's 'camp'

Thursday, July 21, 2005


For more than a decade, a group of homeless men called the banks of the
Pompton River in Wayne "home." They pitched tents on the state-owned land
and did odd jobs for merchants and residents.
But bad things have happened recently - disputes, assaults and deaths -
spurring officials to get state permission to drive the men from the area.
There weren't many left anyway, officials and nearby merchants said.

"Two are in jail," said Richard Perry, a retired roofer who lives above a
nearby convenience store and would visit the men. "Another is going into
rehab, one went to Eva's Shelter in Paterson, and a couple are dead."
Michael Pellechia, 46, is in the Passaic County Jail after being charged
Friday with murder for allegedly drowning Joseph Kaiser, 54, whose body was
found on July 7. Both men lived outdoors in the Mountain View section of
Wayne off Route 202.
Another man who lived along the river, Joseph M. Black, 39, is in jail
charged with attempted murder for allegedly striking Kevin Troast, 43, with
a pickax during an argument on June 24.
The group at one time numbered about 12 and called themselves a tightknit
family who watched out for one another. Many were born or raised in Wayne,
Lincoln Park or Paterson.
Shop owners knew them by name and liked most of them, especially Black.
"He was a nice guy, quiet, didn't cause any ruckus," said Natalie Miller,
who works for Supermart, an area deli.
Al Gabriel, who owns the store, agreed and said he knew some of the men for
more than 20 years.
"People would hire them for yard work," he said. "They weren't physically
disabled and could work."
In return, many of the locals cared about them. Shop owners would give them
bagels and other food.
"A few times we had extra pizza and we'd call them over and give it to
them," said Tito Krishwamurphy, owner of Delutsche Autohaus Corp., located
across Route 202 from where the men pitched tents.
"I don't know what happened that brought them there. ... Hard times, I
guess," said Perry.
More likely alcohol, said police and some shop owners.
"Each had their difficulties in life and wound up there," said Capt. John
Reardon of the Wayne police. "In the last few weeks, it escalated. We would
get calls from residents. Intoxication was the biggest issue."
Reardon said the process of moving the few men still there - police wouldn't
say just how many - began a few weeks ago because of the complaints. "Last
week, the town went down to clean up the garbage," he said, referring to the
"camp" the men had set up in the woods along the river behind a carwash.
He said police Capt. Paul Ireland attempted to find them a place to go.
"It's not easy," Reardon said. "They didn't want to go to shelters."
A multifaith effort by area churches has for the last few years tried to
help the men - and occasional women - within the group. Last winter during
the bitter cold, members of Calvary Temple off Preakness Avenue in Wayne got
them rooms in the Wayne Motor Inn for a few weeks. They also provided
clothing and food for them as they tried - and they are still trying - to
get them into detoxification programs.
"They had something in their lives that made them lose hope, and we're
trying to give them that hope back," said Tim Carlucci, who belongs to
Calvary Temple and volunteers with his wife, Lorraine, to help the men.
Carlucci said the main source |of their problem is drugs and alcohol.
"There's a reason they're there; they're not just down on their luck," he
said. "The problem is more than homelessness. There is a drug and alcohol
problem in that area, and it's causing homelessness."
Carlucci said a multichurch committee has been formed to help those with
these problems. Besides Carlucci's church, members include Montville United
Methodist Church, First Reformed Church of Lincoln Park and St. Anne's
Church in Lincoln Park.
"We're all believers that Jesus died for our sins and that he is the only
one who can deliver everyone from the despair that they're in," he said.
"We're not trying to just give them a roof over their heads or food for the
day, although we are doing that. We're trying to show them that there is
hope for the future."

E-mail:  daurizio@northjersey.com

Copyright  2005 North Jersey Media Group Inc.