An online review criticizing a homeless man near North Park’s Nomad Donuts went viral after the owner publicly supported and defended the man who calls the nearby sidewalk home.
Nomad Donuts owner Brad Keiller does not always respond to the nearly 1,000 reviews of his shop on the community-reviewed Yelp.com. In fact, most reviews are positive, but a 1-star review from a frequent customer in November could not be left alone, Keiller said.
The review, which has since been removed, called out Nomad Donuts for letting Raymond “Ray” Taylor live in the area, often on one of the shop’s walls for the past year.
Keiller essentially told the reviewer that Taylor did not harm anyone and he would not chase him away.
“You’re not really treating him like a person, you know, we’re all here,” Keiller told NBC 7. “It’s really not that hard to say hi.”
Keiller’s compassionate response was screenshotted and shared around the world from the Philippines to South Africa, quickly receiving a sugary sweet community response.
But Keiller said he was nervous for Ray because he thought the attention might be too much.
He went and explained what happened to Ray who said he actually found it rather entertaining, but for a moment he worried the review would push him out of the area.
NBC 7 sat down with both Keiller and Taylor, the man of the hour, to chat about how their special relationship first started about a year ago.
“I used to live a couple of blocks from the shop and I would just see Ray every day, and I think it just started with a wave and then hello and next thing you know we were talking to each other,” Keiller said.
As for Taylor, he said he got tired of the drug addicts at his former Starbucks spot and decided to move to the area by Nomad Donuts.
“I was overwhelmed by the hospitality and the overall vibe of the business,” he added.
Keiller’s support for Taylor perhaps comes from his awareness of the housing problem in San Diego as rent prices increase. When you add in a crisis like an expensive medical problem, homelessness can be right around the corner, he said.
The lack of a safety net from national healthcare also contributes to the problem, particularly in Taylor’s case, he said.
Taylor has been homeless for the past eight years, ever since he lost everything in the 2008 financial crash. After a series of economic pitfalls and a badly needed, unfunded knee and hip replacement, he made the financial decision to become homeless.
Many new customers have visited the shop in a show of support, asking how they could help Taylor; Keiller set up a GoFundMe, which has raised more than $4,000 as of Dec. 9.