In the sprawling homeless encampment that formed along the Santa Ana River, everyone knew Donahue Farrow as “the bike man.”
Before the encampment was cleared last month, Farrow had one of the largest tents along the river trail, which he filled with bicycles, bike parts, batteries, food, chargers and just about anything else his neighbors might need.
Farrow, 46, says having a bike gives homeless people some independence and freedom.
He fixes bikes and gives them away. When people steal a bike, it’s because they have somewhere to go, Farrow said. For that reason, he added, “I did not and will not lock any of my bikes.”
Farrow said he moved to the river trail about eight months ago, and has lived in Orange County for about two years. He said he has been homeless most of his life, and has battled addiction.
He became interested in bike repair after helping a friend fix a broken wheel. He finds comfort in helping his community, he said.
“It’s almost expected of me," Farrow said. "If someone has a problem with their bike, I’ll fix it."
On Feb. 24, the river trail was being cleared, and it was time for Farrow to leave the place he called home. He packed his tools, clothes and brought his bike.
Farrow was moved to a motel, like hundreds of others who had to leave the Santa Ana River.
When he arrived at the motel, where he will live for 30 days, Farrow recognized some of his fellow residents from the river trail.
Even at the motel, he has continued his repair work. People have found him through word of mouth, looking for some help keeping their bikes functioning. Farrow is happy to help.
“All in all, I fix bikes to help people,” he said.