NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (WDSU) – A homeless man and his friends living under New Orleans’ Pontchartrain Expressway have their holiday spirit once more thanks to the kindness of strangers.
A new Christmas tree has been decorated next to their camp after city workers tossed their first tree.
It all started when one of the men, John, said a driver gave him $100. He decided to use part of the money to buy a Christmas tree and decorations for his extended family living on the streets.
Then the city conducted one of its regular sweeps Friday morning underneath the expressway. The city trucks came rolling through the area and the workers took the Christmas tree, but that wasn’t the end of it.
“First time they threw it in the back of the dumpster,” John said. “One of the guys I let sleep in my tent, he went over and grabbed it.”
A man living under the highway said he tried to save it.
“I saved it once, but then I went to the store to get a soda and they got it,” Dave said.
John said he attempted to chase the truck to get his Christmas tree, but it was too late. He said he managed to hold onto the holiday evergreen until the truck proceeded to crush it.
WDSU contacted city officials Friday morning, inquiring about the Christmas tree that was taken from underneath the expressway. A representative said the tree was a code violation and was removed.
All that was left was a single ball ornament.
John’s story was posted to WDSU’s website and Facebook page, garnering the attention of thousands who called the act shameful and heartless.
“The city that stole Christmas from the homeless. #CityoNOLA,” Sharon Johnson said on Facebook.
“That sucks. Put the tree back up. Pretty sad that the homeless can’t have a Christmas tree. What’s wrong with the city, it’s Christmas. It only comes once a year,” Barbara Connors said on Facebook.
“Shame on the city of New Orleans. The city needs to be more concerned about all of the crime in the city, but instead, they remove a Christmas tree from homeless people?” Margaret Moore said on Facebook.
John’s story was shared over 1,300 times with several people from the city and beyond calling for some justice. Hours later, one of those people, Butch Nutter, drove down from Hammond to donate a Christmas tree.
“It just touched me. He spent his last little (bit of) money for a little Christmas tree for everybody, him and his little family,” Nutter said. “I just wanted to show him that there is good in this world.”