Jason Hansen's commute to work is different than most. He works overnight at Walmart, one long mile from his home. He sets out in the dark, traveling on the worn tires of his backup wheelchair, often hassled by thugs and once run over by a truck.
"I thought I was dead. The truck high-centered on my wheelchair," Hansen said.
But the most dangerous part of his night is often before he leaves the house. Jason is paralyzed on the left side of his body, an injury he suffered after being shot in the head 15 years ago.
"It's a real pain," he said. "It's a real pain."
It takes Hansen four hours to get showered and dressed, he said, and many times he has fallen and doesn't have the strength to get back into his chair.
"I fell quite a few times, and they came and got me up and put me back in my chair," he said.
"They" are the men of Phoenix Fire Station 11, who have answered Jason's calls for help and have come to realize that he is different from many others in need.
"As professionals, we respond to a lot of calls, obviously, and we do see a lot of people who do live off the system," one of the firefighters said. "He has told us that if he were to quit his job, that he would be eligible for a lot of services that are out there, but he is unwilling to do that."
"He's the type of person that he needs outside help, and it's sad, like you say, tugs on your heartstrings because he's doing the right thing right now," another firefighter said.
Hansen, who wants to work but also needs extra help, slips through the cracks in the social welfare system.
"It's so much easier for people who are in the systems and have access and everything, but they don't have any programs for people who are willing to work," Hansen said. "I like to be independent."
The firefighters said they have already installed bars in his shower and a no-slip mat.
"I'm very surprised that they've helped me as much as they have," Hansen said.
On a recent day, the men of Ladder 11 again traveled the familiar path to Hansen's apartment, not to help him off the floor, but to help him help himself with a donation. CBS5 provided $500, and the firefighter fund gave $500, to put toward reattaching the wheel that was ripped from his chair months ago.
"My wheelchair is like my legs," Hansen said.
But before he got his wheel fixed, Southwest Mobility heard Hansen's story and fixed the wheel for free. KPHO has learned that Hansen paid some of the money forward by donating to a co-worker who is struggling financially.
Man Excels Despite All Odds
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