'What Would You Do?': Generous customers repeatedly buy homeless man’s coffee

A cashier gives a man experiencing homelessness some free food, but the café manager isn't happy about the cashier's actions. "WWYD?” cameras capture people's generosity when they step in.
7:55 | 07/08/20

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Transcript for 'What Would You Do?': Generous customers repeatedly buy homeless man’s coffee
There's no staying home when you don't have a home. And with a sharp spike in unemployment due to the pandemic, a Columbia university projection using historical trends estimates that homelessness could increase 40% to 45% by the end of the year. Without a safe place to stay, many more may be relying on the kindness of strangers for a warm meal. Hi. How can I help you today? Can I get a small coffee, please? Of course, yeah. That'll be $3. Hey, hey. Don't worry about it. This one's on the house. But sometimes that kindness comes to an end. Messages in chalk say "Boycott caffe vita." In this Seattle cafe, employees say they were fired for giving food to the homeless. In an email to caffe vita's staff, a manager claimed that "Feeding homeless people actually increases homelessness." There were protests and the cafe apologized. It's now under new ownership whose management says they have a "Welcoming policy to everyone." Take one of these pastries. They're from yesterday, we were just going to get rid of them anyway. Are you giving away free food to this bum? Does this look like a homeless shelter to you? Get out! No, it's not his fault. I know it's not. It's yours for enabling him. If you saw an employee being berated for giving away leftovers, what would you do? Today, our hidden cameras are rolling at espresso yourself coffee and cafe in St. Louis, Missouri. Of course, both Leah and Bianca are actors. And Tommy, he's definitely an actor, playing a homeless man who's not welcome here. Hey, Tommy. Here's something warm for you. Oh, thank you, girl. You're welcome. I can pay for the coffee. Oh, no, it's on the house. Don't worry about it. You sure? Yeah. Thank you. Are you giving him free food? It's leftovers. We were just going to get rid of them anyway. We see this group is listening in. I just told you I don't like him being here. She's clearly watching. This is a business. This isn't a charity. You don't just give food away. Here she comes. Here she comes. This woman shows her generosity by giving Tommy some cash. No, that's ridiculous. Stop it. There you are, thank you so much. But the manager isn't having any of that. All he needs is coffee, so -- Can we buy him the cup of coffee then? Just take this back and we will buy him something. We'll pay for it. Regardless, they want to do something nice for Tommy. Just a regular coffee? Just a small coffee. And you keep the rest. That way you can have some coffee for later. Oh, my gosh. They insist that he keep the change. Thank you so much. All right, let's try this. It's really nice. Hi, ma'am. How are you? Hi. Good, how are you? I'm John Quinones with the TV show "What would you do?" Holy cow. Do you have lots of money to give away? No. The more you give, the more you receive. You were very upset. It touched you, right? Yeah. You gave $20? I'm not giving because I have something, but I'm giving because I know the feeling of being nothing. You've been there? Yeah. I'm not gonna pass this person without giving nothing if I have something. We keep rolling. It's $3. Okay, here you go. And other customers make their opinions known. Would you really pay for him? Why would you do that? 'Cause sometimes you just have to do something nice for other people. I was just trying to help this man. I was just trying to help. This isn't a homeless shelter. Some even deciding to take their money elsewhere. I actually am good. Of course we let her know that the owners of this cafe would never support our actor's antics. These patrons are empathetic. Can I pay? She said, "I'll pay for it." They also acknowledge the situation isn't so black and white. Is this the first time he's been in here? No. They encourage Tommy to find an alternative. Just don't make it a habit, you know? I mean, I was going to fire my employee for lack of judgment. Well, don't do that. I think she can learn from this. Here we go. Here we go. What was going through your mind? Maybe I can help someone out. I didn't want to see an employee get in trouble. And, ma'am, you were ready to help out too? You know, sometimes people are down and out and sometimes they need stuff so I'm willing to do that. Next up, this man weighs in. He was minding his own business over there. I had no problem with it. That's just me, personally. That didn't bother you? No. Well, what do you think about my employee just giving him free food? That I couldn't say. And he tries to see our manager's point of view. It's true, there are some people who if you try to help them out once, they will keep coming back and take advantage of your kindness. Time to break it, let's go. Still, I think it's worth it to do something when you can. How you doing, my man? What's going on? This show is called "What would you do?" Hey, I guess I just found out. You gave her a lecture, I mean, you talked a lot about it. I really do think there's a lot of people going through hard times, suffering, and you just have to do what good you can do, and hope it goes as far as it can go. We're rolling one last time. And this woman notices as Tommy starts counting out his coins. And before we have a chance to send our actors over to create a scene, she senses he could use some help. Can I buy you something to drink? Right away. I'm -- I think I'm gonna have enough. I appreciate it. Are you sure? Yeah, I think I'm gonna have enough. Now what will she do when our manager threatens to kick him out? I don't want this place full of homeless people. I'll pay for it. I'll pay for it. Oh, I can't let you do that. I want to, please. Determined to get him something to drink. Do you know this man? Do you know him? He's a friend of mine. She said, yes? I'm happy to pay for my friend's coffee. I just want him to leave. Can I get this to go, please? Appalled by the manager's behavior, she gets her drink to go. You don't think I did the right thing? I personally wouldn't have done the same thing. We step out to meet her. But that's up to you. Hi, there. How are you? Hey. I'm John Quinones, this is part of a TV show. Are you kidding me? No, I'm not. Are you serious? What? You were amazing. Right away. What was going through your mind? A million things. I thought that it was not okay the way he was being treated. And I'm, you know, a poor student myself and that was something that I was wrestling with, but -- Why does it resonate with you Because I would want somebody to do the same thing for me. As simple as that. And I was grabbing my coffee to go sit outside with him. I want you to meet the man who was playing the homeless, Tom. Hey. How you doing? How you doing? Good job, good job. Good job. She recognized that I was just another person in need and she wanted to help me. And I appreciate that so much. An emotional ending to a day full of generosity and kindness. Oh, this is yours.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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