Homeless man builds hillside estate along California freeway
LOS ANGELES - A homeless encampment in Pacoima, California has turned into an art piece after a homeless man turned a hillside along a freeway into a home that comes complete with art and gardens.
The property was build and landscaped along the 118 Freeway by 65-year-old Jose Fuentes. He's originally from Colima, Mexico.
Nathaniel Padilla is the owner of Taco El Canelo, a restaurant that is next to the encampment.
Padilla says, "He said he was a gardener. So he did landscaping, so he got really good with his hands."
He says it is becoming something legendary.
Padilla says, "People love it. I have people climbing up the mountain to go give them gifts like he's like he's baby Jesus almost. I have many people come out and ask me questions about what's going on. 'What is this? Is this like a memorial?' No, it's not. It's just a creative man at work."
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Padilla says Fuentes helps keep the shopping center clean and they have a great relationship.
"Honestly, he never does anything to offend anybody. So we don't have any reason to call any police or anyone to remove him from here. He's a really, genuinely nice guy, and we're happy to have him here," Padilla says.
City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez addressed the encampment in a statement, accusing the state highway department of being negligent in maintaining the area and says that she, "continues to seek Caltrans cooperation and support to maintain their right of ways and work with appropriate agencies to coordinate services for the unhoused who are living on state property."
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Caltrans says it is working with various partners to moved the unhoused into safer situations and that due to COVID-19: "Caltrans is proceeding with the encampment cleanups if there was an immediate safety concern or threat to critical infrastructure."
Fuentes says that no one has ever asked him to leave The hillside or has offered him housing but whatever happens, he'll keep his creative flair.
He says, "They take it away. We move on. We build another place."