On a near-freezing day in January 2016, Joey Resto noticed a homeless man trembling from the cold on the New York subway. The 23-year-old knew just what to do and started to remove his shirt. But he didn’t expect the reaction that his gesture of compassion would receive.
Having been raised in New York, Resto is no stranger to the subway. At the time, the then-father-of-two lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and worked as a paralegal in the city.
New York is known for its cold winters. Temperatures often plummet to below freezing and it’s not uncommon for it to snow. At the same time, the city has a large homeless problem.
The levels of homelessness in New York have been at Great Depression levels over the last several years. The rate of rough sleepers is now 82 percent higher than 10 years previously, according to Coalition for the Homeless. And in 2017, nearly 130,000 people slept in the city’s shelters.
Although the issue is sometimes overlooked, that’s not what happened in Resto’s case. While traveling on the A train from Washington Heights to his home in Brooklyn on January 8, 2016, he saw a homeless man in the same carriage.
On this chilly January day, Resto told ABC News that temperatures were at approximately 45 degrees Fahrenheit. So he took note after seeing a fellow traveler with no shirt on, shivering from the cold. The paralegal also couldn’t believe that other passengers simply ignored the man’s suffering.
“Everyone on there had separated themselves from him. He looked like he had gotten beaten up. He had patches of hair missing. He had no shirt on,” Resto told Fox 5. He decided to film a clip for social media to point out the man’s predicament.
“I sat in front of him and did a Snapchat video of the gentleman. It was crazy that everyone was just looking and not doing anything. It was freezing outside,” Resto continued to Fox 5. And he was heartbroken at the sight of the man, who looked hungry and cold.
Wanting to help the homeless person, Resto soon came up with a solution. So he approached the man. But as he carried out an act of kindness, he didn’t realize that someone had started filming him.
Paralegal Resto removed his white T-shirt, revealing just a vest underneath. Then, he offered the top to the homeless passenger. A camera caught the heartwarming moment as he placed it over the man’s head and shoulders while chatting inaudibly to him, before checking that it fitted properly.
In an interview with radio station WABC, Resto said, “[The homeless man] looked so weak and frail. I had to help him, or he would not put it on.” And he didn’t care that it left him being recorded while wearing very little. “I had a big tank top on. I would have been better prepared,” he joked during an interview with Fox 5.
As the camera continued to roll, kindhearted Resto returned to the stranger with a black knitted hat that he considerately placed over his head. “It was the least I could do. I didn’t know what was going to be his reaction,” he told Fox 5.
Resto continued, “He looked like he had a mental disability. He couldn’t physically put it on. I had to put it on him like a child.” He added to ABC that he offered the man the shirt off his back simply because he “thought [it] was right.”
And Resto’s generosity didn’t end there. He invited the homeless person to come to his residence for coffee, a hot meal and more clothing. The man agreed but had dozed off by the time the train arrived at Resto’s stop.
“He was warm for the first time in I don’t know how long,” Resto said to the New York Daily News. “He just curled up in a corner and went to sleep.” Not wanting to wake him, he let the man snooze as he left the subway.
However, Resto then placed a call to a nonemergency line to see if the homeless man could receive help. “It was a natural reaction to help, to do what I can,” he told the newspaper. “I hope they find this guy. It is not hard to spot him.”
That same night, Facebook user Läzaro El Feo, who lives in Jamaica, New York, posted the clip online. The 24-year-old had witnessed the event unfold as a fellow passenger on the A train – and his footage soon went viral. The video has now been watched over 14 million times and drawn in over 28,000 comments.
Social media users were quick to commend Resto. “That was amazing to watch so much compassion flowing from one person to another,” Lorraine Clark wrote on Facebook. He also received an honor by Rockland County Legislators and Governor Andrew Cuomo applauded him in his State of the State address.
Yanisleidy Martinez, Resto’s then-girlfriend, also praised his actions, adding he is such a “caring” person. “He noticed something wrong when other people were just staring, and he did something about it,” she told ABC News. Resto is now in a relationship with Briana Resto, and they share a young daughter.
Although social media users applauded Resto’s goodwill and he took part in several interviews as news outlets picked up on the story, he insists that he merely did what he believed everyone should in that situation. “It just came from the heart,” he said to ABC News. “I don’t know how anyone could have walked past him and had extra clothing and not given it to him.”