NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As CBS2 reported not too long ago, people in a Manhattan neighborhood took the phrase “love thy neighbor” to heart.
They befriended a homeless man who was living on the street for more than a year, and made it their mission to get him a job and put a roof over his head.
On Sunday, he showed reporter Lisa Rozner what a full week of employment looks like.
In less than two weeks, Johnell Johnson went from a stoop on West 22nd Street to manning the sink at Gran Tivoli on Broome Street. He’s the restaurant’s new kitchen porter.
“It feels good. I just started and I was training somebody,” Johnson said.
Neighbors plastered posters with the hashtag #HireJohnell around the Chelsea neighborhood where the homeless man has greeted strangers with a smile for more than a year. One gave him an old iPhone, another accompanied him to interviews, and shared his story by creating an Instagram handle for him.
“One of our owners saw a post on Instagram. I think what Rob recognized from the moment he came in was just a positive attitude,” said Ryan Gavin, Gran Tivoli’s beverage director.
Johnell is working full-time, five days a week, for $15 an hour, and neighbor Julie Benlevi helped him open a bank account.
“It was the best. It’s super exciting,” Benlevi said.
“I never seen people like this in my life. I didn’t know there were good people like this in my life,” Johnson added.
And having a job isn’t the only thing Johnell said he’s blessed to have. Now, thanks to his neighbors, he also has a place to stay.
“We spoke with housing over a couple months and they got him a place the same day he started the first regular shift on his job,” neighbor Jennifer Mallicote said.
Johnson is now staying in a transitional housing facility and said he hopes to get an apartment of his own in the next year.
“It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful to sleep in a bed,” he said. “Lay down, rest peaceful and I listen to my music and get to work.”
The only downside — if you want to call it that — is that Johnell’s old friends on 22nd Street miss seeing him around.
Johnson said he plans to hand out holiday cards thanking each and every neighbor who helped him, or simply greeted him while he lived on the street.