Imagine meeting someone who is going through a difficult season of life and still manages to greet everyone with a smile. Think of how much you’d want to help them!
That’s how everyone in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City felt about Johnell Johnson, only he didn’t actually have a home there — or anywhere else. So his neighbors came together to help change his circumstances.
Johnell had been sleeping on a stoop for a year since he ran into bad times at the end of a 20-year relationship. Although he had trouble getting back on his feet, he never stopped being his usual friendly self.
Every day, he made sure to greet the people who passed by him with a warm smile. That’s how he was able to bond with neighbors like Jennifer Mallicote and Julie Benlevi.
“That one time I sat down and had a conversation — quite honestly, it’s changed my whole outlook,” Jennifer said.
So she and Julie teamed up to get Johnell off the street. Jennifer gave him an old cell phone so employers could contact him, while Julie posted more than 100 flyers in the area to advertise Johnell’s availability. She even advised him on several interviews because she has a wealth of experience in the food industry!
Chelsea residents also pitched in to get Johnell a membership at a local recreation center so he had somewhere to shower, shave, and warm up. Then someone helped him create an Instagram account so he could share his story with the world.
Everyone was united by one goal: getting Johnell off the street before the brutal New York winter. And their plan succeeded! Johnell recently updated his Instagram followers to let them know he is now employed as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. He said they treat him well and even gave him lamb one night for dinner!
But the best was yet to come! Thanks to more help from his dear friends, he’s found transitional housing. And within a year, he hopes to have an apartment to call his own.
Life can be tough. That’s why we need a community to show us love and support when we are fighting to survive. We’re so excited that Johnell is starting to thrive thanks to his wonderful neighbors!
What a great reminder that no one is alone in this world. Check out the video below to learn more about his story, and remember to share it with your friends.
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