As one of Chicago's more than 105,000 estimated homeless citizens, Ronald Davis' story of struggling to survive on the streets may not be unique — but the reaction to his plea for work and dignity certainly is.
A roughly year-old clip of Davis telling his story surfaced on Reddit early Wednesday and was first noticed by Gawker. By late morning, a Reddit user had called on the Internet community to "organize one of those random acts of Reddit" and find Davis to offer help.
Though Reddit has been lambasted in recent days over the user community's speculation about the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, users sympathetic to Davis' situation did more than talk about helping — they immediately set to work.
Davis was filmed in 2012 (embedded) for a video that supposedly inspired an entire series on Indiana public television tackling challenging social issues like poverty and inmate rehabilitation. In the short clip, Davis speaks in heart-wrenching detail of being humiliated, ignored and even insulted as he panhandles in the Loop.
"It's really humiliating to be shaking a cup 24 hours a day, and people just look at you're like some kind of little bum," Davis says in the video. He goes on to tell the interviewer how passers-by holler at him to "get a job" and call him names.
"I'm not a bum," Davis says, breaking down in tears. "I'm a human being."
After tracking Davis down, the original responder updated the thread to say Chicago Redditors were working to get him a prepaid phone and a job opportunity.
"If you can post/PM me proof of him being hired, I'll even front the money to pay for his first uniform," said the respondent (a kind user charmingly named "wookiee_balls").
According to The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Chicagoans looking to help someone on the street can phone City Services at “311,″ ask for “short-term help," and callers will be transferred to a Homelessness Prevention Call Center.