Chicago Police Lt. John Garrido got sick of looking at the dilapidated newsstand down the street from his place of work — the 16th District police station in Jefferson Park.
It looked abandoned. But when he poked his head inside two years ago he found recent editions of the Sun-Times.
On Sunday mornings, Garrido learned, a man occupied the space to sell papers.
The same man, Anthony Johnson, 60, an Air Force veteran, also occasionally used the hut for shelter.
But Garrido wouldn’t learn that until months later.
First, the men developed a friendly relationship, with Garrido regularly stopping by the newsstand at Milwaukee and Central to check in, say hello and buy a paper.
Last October, on a whim after thinking for months that something should be done about the eyesore, Garrido put the word out on Facebook asking the community to help fix up the newsstand.
Offers came quickly: lumber, insulation, labor. An artist volunteered to paint murals.
A reporter at WGN caught wind and covered the rehab.
“The news crew came out and while they were wiring us up, that’s when I was talking to Anthony, just small talk, and I said, ‘So, do you live in the neighborhood?’ and he said, ‘Well, I’m out right now.'”
“Out” — Garrido put together — meant homeless.
Johnson had spent the previous night in the newsstand.
“That’s when the idea transitioned from fixing a newsstand to try to help him out,” Garrido said.
Garrido created a GoFundMe page to raise money to help cover the cost of temporary housing and living expenses. As of Tuesday, donations totaled $7,850.
“While this is not a long term fix, our hope is this will give Anthony a chance to get a leg up to take care of himself down the road,” the GoFundMe page states.
On Tuesday, Garrido, 50, and a 27-year police veteran, was honored as Officer of the Month by the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.
After a brief ceremony at the Chicago Patrolmen’s Federal Credit Union, 1407 W. Washington, Garrido drove to a men’s hotel in the South Loop where Johnson is staying to see how he’s doing and pay his rent with donations he’s collected.
“I’m thankful, thankful that he got the community together,” said Johnson, a soft-spoken man who’s originally from Mississippi.
Garrido said he’s looking into assistance Johnson’s status as a veteran might provide but that navigating bureaucratic red tape has been difficult.
“He’s super humble, he’s a good guy,” Garrido said. “He’s not looking for the spotlight he didn’t ask for any of this at all.”
Johnson, who worked an administrative job in the Air Force and formerly worked as a hospital orderly, said he’s looking for another job. He makes about $120 a week selling papers.
“I always have seen good people out there somewhere, but I got lucky and they got to do something for me this time, that’s all. There’s good people everywhere out there. There’s only a few bad ones who make it into the news,” he said.
Asked if it will be weird seeing himself in a newspaper he will be selling, Johnson replied: “Uh, probably…people will say, ‘That’s you on the front page.'”