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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – It started with a simple Christmas tree underneath the Pontchartrain Expressway.  Now Philly, a homeless man living in New Orleans, has turned his new-found notoriety into something special.

Philly doesn’t live in a mansion, or a house, or even an apartment. He lives under the Pontchartrain Expressway.

Last week, he set up a Christmas tree by his blue tent underneath the expressway. Within a day battery-power lights decorated the tree, then a bow was tied to the top of it.

Then it was stolen — twice.

“When I caught them I grabbed into it and grabbed onto the tree,” Philly said. “I don’t know if they were instructed to double back and get the tree — because my tent and everything else —  but they pinpointed just the tree.”

No homeless tree resized

Philly claims the city’s garbage truck crew tried to sneak the tree away from him. Once when the tree was still in his hands. As soon as news broke, that the homeless Christmas tree was taken, Good Samaritans stepped up.

Philly says people started dropping off trees and gifts. At one point, Philly says he had nine Christmas trees. One was even dropped off when WGNO was there.

But according to Philly, Christmas means “helping others.”

And he’s doing just that. Giving the trees and gifts that he receives to other homeless people.

“I don’t know how it happened. I haven’t seen it happening a lot. All of a sudden people are hugging,” Philly said. “That’s my reward.”

But if he had a Christmas wishlist, Philly says he would like an old CD boombox to play Christmas music.