A viral video has helped millions see “Paradise City,” a compound created by Ceola Waddell Jr. aka “Mr. Dice” that resides under a Los Angeles underpass.
Compiled entirely by Mr. Dice himself, the compound is a collection of abandoned furniture, donated food and other materials found by the 59-year-old when he began living under the 110 Freeway six months ago. After his video had caught the attention of the Los Angeles Times, Dice explained how the city had dismantled his home several times. “I refuse to let the city beat me down to what they think a homeless person’s profile is, living on cardboard,” he said. “This should be a landmark.” Parts of his home include a canopy along with a “working” toilet and two other spaces where he allows fellow homeless people to reside for $25/week.
Bureau of Sanitation spokeswoman Elena Stern says the space is problematic and unsafe after workers found an “abundance of rotting food,” in a refrigerator and “explosive materials.” Refusing to fall into the stereotypes of the homeless, Dice set up a hot dog stand where he sells them for $2.50 each. The Tennessee native has been homeless since the age of 14 after leaving his alcoholic mother and abusive sisters. Remaining active, Dice lived in hotels while working several hustles and sales positions. He lived with a girlfriend for nine years until her death and was unable to keep a steady income afterwards.
Appreciative of the viral hype, Dice says he just wants to live comfortably. “I still don’t get it, what’s so fascinating about this place,” he said. “I decided I wanted to live like everybody else, make me something nice that I wanted to come home to. If I was in the Arctic I’d make me an igloo.”
City officials claim Dice has refused housing, but he tells a different story. “I want to have one of those, but they’re a little slow, dragging their feet with the process,” he said.
Check out his story below.