One man’s attempt to build his home — his castle — underneath the 110 freeway is helping to highlight the growing issue of homelessness in Los Angeles. Ceola Waddell Jr., a 59-year-old man who only wound up underneath the freeway some six months ago, has been gathering massive attention to his splendorous attempts to create a respectable living environment.
“I still don’t get it, what’s so fascinating about this place,” Waddell asked the Los Angeles Times. “I decided I wanted to live like everybody else, make me something nice that I wanted to come home to.”
As he begins a video tour of his facilities with “you have now entered my man cave,” one can quickly can see that a home he “wanted to come home to” means a place adorned with zebra-stripe slipcovers, a nonfunctional porcelain toilet (that reportedly gives him access to the sewer), a refrigerator doubling as a “jacuzzi,” and a guest room that he rents out for $25 per week, among other amenities.
Waddell’s homebuilding efforts — he calls his compound Paradise Lane — apparently flew under the radar, relevant to the city’s ongoing efforts to clean up and correct the current crisis of homelessness. But word began to spread about Waddell’s exterior design skills, with people stopping by to take selfies with him, culminating in the aforementioned video tour that went viral on Facebook.
Soon after that notoriety was achieved, Los Angeles city officials began to make efforts to dismantle Waddell’s digs, with safety and sanitation issues being paramount. A sanitation spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times that “workers removed a refrigerator with an ‘abundance of rotting food,’ ‘explosive materials’ and other unhealthy items.”
Homelessness has grown in huge proportions in recent years in the Los Angeles area. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than a third of the country’s homeless live in California. And while the nation’s overall homeless population has remained relatively flat in recent years, the homeless population in Los Angeles has grown 55 percent since 2013.
Days after the city dismantled his handiwork, Waddell pulled together more scraps and material to start afresh. “I refuse to let the city beat me down to what they think a homeless person’s profile is, living on cardboard,” he told the Times. “This should be a landmark.”