MILWAUKEE — A Wisconsin bus driver didn’t skip a beat when a homeless man stepped on her bus during a cold night, offering him food and helping him find a place to stay. Now she’s being honored for it.
Natalie Barnes, a driver with the Milwaukee County Transit System, found out that a frequent rider, “Richard,” no longer had a home.
“I am officially homeless now,” he said as he boarded her bus last month. The house Richard had been living in was condemned and he had been on the streets for a week.
At first, Barnes offered what she could: the warmth of her bus and some food.
Then, she called a friend and was able to get Richard into a community shelter that has been working to help him find permanent housing.
“At some point in our lives, everybody needs help,” she said in a statement. “I wanted to do what I could to help Richard in some way.”
The two have now become friends she said, and he often calls to check in.
“He thanks me every time he talks to me for helping him. He calls me his little guardian angel,” she said. “I’m happy to say that he’s progressing well.’
In a statement released by the transit system honoring Barnes, County Executive Chris Abele said it was the driver’s kindness and compassion that exemplify what “MCTS Excellence is all about.”
“Across Milwaukee County, employees are focusing on empowering people and strengthening community, and we are investing resources throughout the County to reduce homelessness,” Abele said. “Natalie demonstrated what we all need to do to fight homelessness: to look out for each other, to care for each other and to work together. I’m deeply grateful for Natalie’s actions.”
MCTS Excellence was a program started by the transit line as a way to highlight acts of kindness by its employees. Employees receive recommendations each year and are awarded and recognized by management.