Fort Worth

Fort Worth Restaurant Feeds Homeless Man's Heart

The Outback Steakhouse in Fort Worth's newest employee used to sit outside the restaurant, hoping for a handout

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Kenneth Smith flies from table to table, clearing dishes with a smile on his masked face. You can see it in his eyes.

"I enjoy every bit of it," Smith said of his new job bussing tables. "It's like treasure to me."

That's because Smith used to sit outside the Outback Steakhouse on Bryant Irvin Road in Fort Worth, hoping someone would offer him change or food.

"I've been homeless for, like, a good four years," Smith said. "Wondering how am I going to get a meal? Who am I going to turn to? Who can I ask?"

A few months ago, a woman saw Smith outside the restaurant. He was hungry. She gave him a $100 gift card for Outback Steakhouse, and the man who always sat outside came in for a hot meal.

"I noticed he was a little apprehensive, so I started talking to him," Outback Steakhouse Managing Partner Laura Hodges said. "And then he disclosed to me he was homeless."

"She gave me an Outback Steakhouse card," Smith recalled. "Told me, 'whenever you want to eat, just come on in.'"

"Then he just started coming in regularly," Hodges said. "He wants to work. He wants to earn money. He wants to earn a living."

So when Hodges had an opening for a busboy two weeks ago, she offered Smith the job. Now he works six days a week and says he loves the food, admitting he likes his steaks well done.

"When I came in here I just went straight to work," Smith said. "It's like home up here."

Knowing it's hard to maintain a job without a place to stay, Hodges went on the Forth Worth Foodies Facebook page to ask for recommendations for low-cost housing. Instead, people donated more than $2,000 in one day to get a roof over Smith's head.

"I'm a mom of three, and so my mom heart was exploding," Hodges said.

"I am so overwhelmed and so happy," Smith said. "It makes me feel so good in my heart."

Smith said he hopes one day to be able to open his own restaurant.

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