Kenneth Smith was evicted from his apartment and became homeless four years ago. He spent his days in Fort Worth panhandling, trying to save enough money to get a hotel room for around $55 a night. He was frequently tempted to give up on life.

He explained, “I’ve been homeless for, like, a good four years” and “Wondering how am I going to get a meal? Who am I going to turn to? Who can I ask?”

Smith was seen outside Outback Steakhouse restaurant a few months ago by a lady. He needed to eat something. She gave him a $100 gift card to Outback Steakhouse. He then rushed in for a hot lunch.

Managing Partner Laura Hodges said, “I noticed he was a little apprehensive, so I started talking to him,” then “he disclosed to me he was homeless.”

Smith remembered the lady sent him a gift card, told him, “just come on in.”

The restaurant owner explained: “He just started coming in regularly … He wants to work. He wants to earn money. He wants to earn a living.”

So, two weeks ago, when Hodges had an opening for a busboy, she offered Smith the job. He now works six days a week and claims that he enjoys the cooking, admitting that he prefers well-done steaks.

Kenneth Smith and Laura Hodges in front of the Outback Steakhouse in Fort Worth, where Smith once panhandled and now works as a busser. (Photo Courtesy of Katelyn Courtney)

“When I came in here I just went straight to work,” Smith said. “It’s like home up here.”

Hodges logged on to the Forth Worth Foodies Facebook fan page looking for online community tips for low-cost apartments advice, knowing how difficult it is for Smith to keep a career without a place to stay at night. Instead, more than $2,000 was raised in a single day to provide Smith with a roof over his head.

“I’m a mom of three, and so my mom heart was exploding,” Hodges said.

Smith expressed his happiness by saying, “I am so overwhelmed and so happy … It makes me feel so good in my heart.” He revealed that he wants to run a small restaurant in the future.

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