On New Year’s Eve, after a take-out dinner delivered by a friend, Bruce Leroy Woods, a.k.a. Woody, took a seat at the back of his RV to watch a movie. Then he started to cough, a symptom of the emphysema he’d suffered for years. Santa Barbara Police said a second friend who was staying with Woods heard the violent nature of the cough and went back to offer help. But Woods refused help and continued coughing. A few minutes later, when the friend checked on Woods again, he was barely breathing. By the time first responders arrived, he was dead, said Lt. Paul McCaffrey.
Woods, who was 70, has the dubious distinction of being the last homeless person to die in South Santa Barbara County in 2010. According to the informal tally kept by Social Worker Ken Williams, his was the 32nd homeless death last year, slightly higher than the roughly 30 deaths counted in 2009.
Woods’ friends said he was a Santa Barbara native and 30-year veteran of RV-living. The homeless activist (and contributor to this blog) Nancy McCradie knew him well. She said for a time, he helped pursue the civil rights of RV dwellers in the city, and served on the board of the organization she founded, Homes on Wheels.
“I just liked him,” McCradie said. “He was always kind to me, and he was really involved in trying to get a motor park going [for RV dwellers in Santa Barbara].” Though that effort failed, Woods found a way to simultaneously remain in his vehicle and on the right side of the law. He and a small group of friends (also RV dwellers) discovered a private property owner downtown who allowed them to park in his lot at night if they left before the business day began the next morning.
“He was a grumpy old shit basically,” said Garland Buck, who lives in an RV too. “He was a good friend.” Buck, 60, said Woods loved fishing, football games on television and old western movies. But most of all fishing. To read more, see homelessinsb.org.