Bamboo Charlie
10 Images

Bamboo Charlie

Charles Ray Walker, who began collecting discarded toys in 1993, said Christmas is the best time to find them because people throw away old toys to make room for the new. He uses these toys to decorate his garden, pathways and stairs that he has carved in the bamboo clearing. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)
Charles Ray Walker cleans one of his toy displays along a pathway he carved into a hilly bamboo clearing. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)
Even in his “homeless world” Charles Ray Walker demonstrates a strong work ethic , tending to his crops, raking the bamboo clearing and going out to collect bottles and cans past midnight. " If I was running a crew right now, I’d take a hundred like him. A hell of a guy,” said Pat “Slim” McIntyre, who supervised Walker at a Houston steel company years ago. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)
Walker has a sofa, stereo and television. He has a donated generator for power. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)
In 1992, Walker found a tiny patch of bamboo on an industrial street in Boyle Heights and through the years transformed it into the unique space it is today. He has long moved back and forth between “the homeless world” and “the real world” of rent and responsibilities, and his private oasis reflects that duality. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)
Charles Ray Walker walks down a toy-ornamented pathway carved into a hilly bamboo clearing. To the left, grape vines spread up the hill. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)
Walker rests in the shack he built. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)
Charles Ray Walker watches television at his home. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)
Walker says he survives by selling the recyclables he collects and the fruits and vegetables he grows. Restaurant workers occasionally give him food in return for cleaning or taking out the trash. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)
“I love the expression on people’s faces when they come here,” Walker says. “A homeless man with toys? Whoa!” (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)
1/10