A US woman has been forced to apologise to a formerly homeless man after she tried to humiliate him online.

Luann Cofield had been eating at a McDonald's restaurant in the state of Georgia last month when she spotted a man sleeping in the restaurant booth, using his backpack as a pillow.

Ms Cofield was so confronted by the scene, she decided to take a photograph of the sleeping man and share her disgust with friends and family.

Luann Cofield posted the photo and her rant to her Facebook page. Picture: Facebook
Luann Cofield posted the photo and her rant to her Facebook page. Picture: Facebook

What she didn't realise was that the man was 21-year-old Simon Childs, a homeless father of a four-month-old boy, who was attempting to get some sleep between his shifts at McDonald's.

Ms Cofield posted the photograph to Facebook, accompanied by a long passage explaining this scene was "just another reason for me to leave Fayetteville".

"I was in the McDonald's in the middle of town and I saw this guy sleeping in the booth," she wrote.

She approached an employee to tell them a man was sleeping in their restaurant but was even more surprised by the staff member's response.

"Oh yeah, we know hee hee, it's OK," the staff member told Ms Cofield.

"I said 'not really but whatever'," she wrote.

Luann Cofield felt compelled to share a photo of the sleeping man on social media. Picture: WSB-TV
Luann Cofield felt compelled to share a photo of the sleeping man on social media. Picture: WSB-TV

After Cofield's post went viral, members of the community came forward to defend the man, explaining that he had recently lost his mother and had fallen on hard times.

She received major backlash from people who condemned her for judging and attempting to shame someone who situation she did not understand, with many branding her behaviour "shameful" and "cruel".

A local news crew from WSB-TV covered the story and that week, people began travelling to the McDonald's restaurant where Mr Childs worked to leave donations for him and his baby son.

Simon Childs has a four-month-old son he is working to support. Picture: Twitter
Simon Childs has a four-month-old son he is working to support. Picture: Twitter

Ms Cofield was forced to delete her Facebook account and but was moved after seeing the huge outpouring of support for the man she had posted about.

She reached out to WSB-TV to arrange a meeting with him and apologise for her hurtful act.

Through tears, Ms Cofield told the camera: "I didn't want to hurt him."

The pair arranged to meet up after the viral photo incident. Picture: WSB-TV
The pair arranged to meet up after the viral photo incident. Picture: WSB-TV

When the pair officially met, Ms Cofield gave Mr Childs a hug and apologised.

"I'm sorry that, you know … because that horrifies me, that breaks my heart, for you," she said.

But according to Mr Childs, he was, in a way, grateful she had posted a photograph of his unfortunate circumstance at the time.

"I'm no longer sleeping in a McDonald's, so that's good," he said.

"I feel great."

Thanks to the community's donations, Mr Childs now has an SUV, new clothes and a new job in construction he started this week.

People also arranged for nappies, clothing and supplies for his young son.

A local family even took Mr Childs into their home so he wouldn't have to sleep in a McDonald's booth any longer.

He told WSB-TV he wanted to use some of the money donated to him to help other homeless families in need.

"I actually want to use everything I've gained from this to help other homeless people," Mr Childs said.

He also thanked Ms Cofield for the indirect impact her acts had on him.

"Thank you, not for the post, per se, but for helping me pick my life up off the ground," he said.

The pair shared a hug after Ms Cofield apologised for hurting Mr Childs. Picture: WSB-TV
The pair shared a hug after Ms Cofield apologised for hurting Mr Childs. Picture: WSB-TV

The response online to Mr Childs' story has been overwhelmingly positive, with people around the world congratulating him on his new job and new life.

"Great story about how when the intent to shame goes the polar opposite and in a POSITIVE way!" one man wrote.

Another woman added: "What she meant for evil, God meant for good. God bless you #SimonChilds and your baby."

But many weren't as forgiving of Ms Cofield's actions as Mr Childs was.

"Luann Cofield was disgusted enough to expose Simon Childs on Facebook without his knowledge," one man wrote.

"Without even bothering to ask the McDonald's staff why they were allowing him to sleep there."

Continue the conversation @Rhi_lani or email rhian.deutrom@news.com.au



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