A Detroit-area lawyer is working to find help for Willie Payne, a homeless man who was recently the subject of a viral video (shown below), in which a McDonald’s worker lured him to a drive-thru window with the promise of a sandwich before throwing water in his face.
Brian Dailey, a lawyer in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, told the Detroit Free Press that he is working to arrange for mental health treatment for Payne and possibly a better living situation.
Staff at his firm have a set up a GoFundMe page that has raised $1,681 of its $1 million goal as of this writing. They have also set up the website Keep Willie Payne Warm so those who want to help can get in touch with the firm and monitor Payne’s progress.
“I am going to help him obtain permanent shelter, good health care, clean nice clothing and hot fre[s]h food to eat everyday,” Dailey writes on the website. “I’m also going to help Willie Payne reach out to start a dialogue with McDonalds about the plight of the homeless and the mentally ill about whom their worker apparently cares little.”
Payne reportedly rents a basement room in a neighborhood near the McDonald’s seen in the video. His longtime neighbor Craig Hobson was on hand with him at Dailey’s office on Nov. 13 to discuss the incident with the Free Press.
When asked about how he felt when the water was thrown in his face, Payne said, “It upset me.”
“I felt bad, but what are you going to do?” he added.
Hobson told the paper that Payne has lived in the neighborhood for years and sometimes disappears for months at a time.
He suffers from an unspecified mental illness and is believed to have a living sister, but her whereabouts are unknown.
Dailey is looking into the possibility that Payne might have served time in prison for manslaughter. But, he said, that hardly matters.
“What we need to know about Willie is that he needs help, and what we need to know about Willie is that he’s not getting that,” Dailey said. “He suffered a very degrading act.”
Dailey, who said his own brother suffered from mental illness and ultimately committed suicide, added that he has known Hobson for years, and the friend put him in touch with Payne after the video went viral.
“Willie is entitled to dignity,” Dailey said. “He’s one of God’s children, just like you and I.”
The McDonald’s franchise owner, Wise Finley, issued a statement after the video garnered attention, denouncing the employee’s actions and saying the worker had been fired.