Homeless man who had been living in water tank says Banksy saved him

Dylan Stableford
Banksy tank
The water tank before it was removed. (Banksy via The Independent)

A homeless man who had been living in an abandoned water tank overlooking the Pacific Coast Highway says he was saved by Banksy, the elusive British graffiti artist, after the tank became a sought-after piece of Banksy's art.

“There ain’t no better man than Banksy,” the man, Tachowa Covington, told London's Independent. “He was an angel to me. He helped me more than anybody helped me in my life.”

Covington, who began living inside the structure in 2004, spent several years converting it into a pseudo-mountainside apartment, replete with lights, a TV and security cameras powered by a generator:

Getting inside was a challenge: you had to scale a ladder, clamber on to the tank and climb in through a hatch at the top. But Covington was undeterred. He sanded the rust from the walls and repainted the interior. He salvaged plywood from the alleys of nearby neighborhoods and made a level floor. He built shelves, and fixed pictures to the walls with magnets. He broke down a sofa and a king-size bed, squeezed the parts through the hatch, and then reconstructed them inside, like ships in a bottle. “It started more as an art piece,” he says, “but then it became a home.”

In 2011, Banksy painted the words “This looks a bit like an elephant" on the white water tank, which sat on stilts in a canyon between Santa Monica and Malibu. Covington, who was inside it at the time, came outside.

“I looked out of the hatch, and there were two guys there,” Covington said. “I asked what they were doing, and one of them said, 'We're just making a joke.' I climbed down the ladder, looked at the writing, and I said, ‘Hey, that looks pretty cool!’ I introduced myself, and the English dude told me his name was Banksy. I didn’t know who he was, so I didn’t think twice about it.”

But Banksy's followers, who saw photos of the public art posted on his website, quickly located it. A local design firm bought the tank from the city of Los Angeles and moved it to a warehouse in San Fernando Valley. Covington was evicted.

Covington, a 54-year-old former street performer, said Banksy bankrolled him for a full year, helping him find an apartment, pay his bills and get back on his feet.

“He helped me so fast, I didn’t have to spend a single day more on the streets," Covington continued. "It was like a miracle.”

But Covington's Banksy account recently dried up, and he is back on the streets awaiting state-funded housing, according to the paper.