SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - The community of Willow Glen in San Jose is rallying around a beloved grocery clerk who recently became homeless. Co-workers and customers say they need to make sure he has a place to stay.
Grocery clerk Jude Howell has never met a stranger. To him, every customer at the Bird Avenue Safeway is either a new friend or practically family.
Paul Sawyer, a regular customer said, "This guy is always just alight with life. He is constantly getting to know people around him. Every interaction is special to him, and he's said that to me."
But recently, Howell's beloved customers found out he'd fallen on hard times. His roommate died, leaving him with rent he couldn't afford alone. And so he'd taken his bike and a tarp and began sleeping in the park.
Howell said, "That's been difficult. and I've been... I've been outside."
Paul Sawyer, a regular customer, said his 5-year-old couldn't sleep knowing his buddy Jude didn't have a bed.
Sawyer said his son, "Started to cry. He started to well up. And he said I've got a pretty big bed, Jude can sleep in my bed. Can we give him a pillow? We need to make sure he's okay."
Sawyer agreed to put Howell in a hotel room for a few nights.
And so co-workers, and community members banded together, setting up a GoFundMe page and raising almost $11,000 over just three days.
Every donation was followed by a comment about Howell's warmth, his smile or how the money couldn't possibly repay years of kindness.
Howell couldn't believe their generosity.
"I see the comments. And the love that people have shown for me and I didn't know. They won't let me down because I won't let them down," he said.
But customers at the Safeway say this is no surprise: that the Willow Glen community, takes care of its own.
Sawyer said, "Everybody has jumped up, without hesitation, to help this man. It makes you feel so good. It makes you walk a little taller. It makes you feel even more proud of the people you have around you every single day."
Howell said he's humbled and beyond grateful for the support.
He said, "To hold a high place of honor in the community that you love. That's priceless. You can't put a price on that. You just can't."
Coworkers say the goal is to raise enough money to help Howell get back on his feet. they're also on the lookout for anyone who has an affordable apartment he might be able to rent.
If you're interested in helping, friends have set up a GoFundMe page.