Austin icon heads to hospice care while friends fundraise

Kayla Jonsson

After 25 years of strolling around the streets of downtown in women’s clothing and heels, the iconic vagrant Leslie Cochran remains in critical condition.

Leslie was found unconscious Feb. 16 on South Fifth Street only days after announcing plans to move to Colorado, said Debbie Russell, the president of the Central Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Surrounded by friends, Leslie was transferred to hospice care Friday.

“He is in comfort care and his wishes are being tended to,” said Russell, a close friend of . “Generally, there is no expectation of recovery. His physical condition is so compromised that even if he were to recover, he wouldn’t really be functional.”

Russell said Leslie’s current condition stems from a motorcycle accident in Colorado 25 years ago combined with an acquired head injury after tripping over a curb downtown in 2009. Russell said Leslie has suffered frequent seizures since the 2009 accident.

“About once a month Leslie would have a seizure,” Russell said. “He got to the point where he would know when one was coming so he could get himself to the hospital. Recently, he just couldn’t get himself there and that’s when he collapsed and someone took him to the hospital.”

Russell said because Leslie is a vagrant, free medical care is provided to him, but fund-raisers are also being held to help support costs that may tally once he leaves the hospice.

“There are some beautiful paintings of Leslie being auctioned and Leslie magnet sets are being sold,” Russell said. “All of the money is going to fund-raising for his treatment and for the upcoming expenses we are bracing ourselves for.”

An iLeslie app is available for purchase on iTunes that includes short sayings of his and two interviews with him. Architectural engineering freshman Kaitlyn Dietz said she met Leslie once and his personality is perfect for an app.

“He is so goofy,” Dietz said. “People like Leslie are only welcomed in certain places and Austin is one of those places.”

Leslie is well-known at City Hall for his three runs for mayor over the years and his celebrity status in Austin, said Amy Everhart, spokeswoman for mayor Lee Leffingwell’s office. She said Leffingwell and about 100 other city hall staff members sent Leslie a get-well card.

“The mayor and everyone have been concerned about Leslie,” Everhart said. “The life of a homeless person is very rough and that becomes clear when someone becomes ill like this. The whole city is pulling for him. He’s made it through a lot of hard times before so we hope he will make it through this.”