Dave Gordon ’02, a staff photographer with the Boston-area Community Newspapers, has produced a short film documenting the story of a homeless man whose five-year quest to build his own home ended with the structure’s demolition by local officials.
A political science major and a member of Chi Phi while at the Colleges, Gordon’s work with the homeless eventually led him to Brian Joyce, who built a house on an abandoned strip of land near Cambridge, Mass. Gordon was impressed by Joyce’s determination and drive. “Here’s a guy pulling himself up out of homelessness,” said Gordon, “he spent five years building his house, not for any special recognition, but only to live.”
The film, which features Gordon’s photography, is available online.
For years, Joyce labored to level the ground for a floor and bring construction materials to the site. The building would eventually grow to a 30-by-10 foot residence “featuring an art studio where he painted, a comfortable seating area and a bedroom, including a queen-sized bed and mattress.”
All that came to an abrupt end when the Department of Conservation and Recreation sent a crew from the local prison to demolish the structure. It is against DCR regulations for anyone to have an “overnight residence” on park property.
Gordon believed that the DCR decision was an abuse of power and wanted to tell the story to the community. “They owned the land on paper,” he said, “but this wasn’t even park property, it was an abandoned site between a highway and a cemetery.”
“He wanted to settle down, to create a more mainstream life,” said Gordon. “But in the end, mainstream society wouldn’t have him.”
The story was covered in local papers, including the Watertown TAB, the Cambridge Chronicle and the Daily News Tribune.