The first time I saw Willy in his wheelchair in the park, I walked by him. I really try hard to not meddle with how things happen, but I’ve noticed that I make preliminary judgments on who may or may not make a good story and who I should approach. I don’t know if it is the television producer in me, a normal human reaction, or that I may feel their pain and hesitate to connect with those who are really hurting.
When I was leaving the park for the day, I stopped in the public restroom. This time I could not walk by Willy because his wheelchair was blocking the entrance. He had a dirty old paper cup and was trying unsuccessfully to lean out of his wheelchair to fill it with water. Just remembering this moment brings tears to my eyes, it was very sad. Outside I ran into Miguel, another homeless man bound to a wheelchair I met earlier and we started to talk. Willy came strolling by and I froze; I really didn’t know what to say. But we struck up a conversation and he agreed to record his story.
After Willy had his toes cut off he stayed in a hospital for a year. Since his discharge, he’s had nowhere to go. He says he has a place to stay in Van Nuys, but by the looks of him, he had been on the streets for some time. Willy spent the night before this interview sleeping outside in his wheelchair with no blanket.