At Starbucks, busy baristas provide service with a smile. These days, the biggest smile is on the face of Nicolas Gagnon.

“I’m really happy and proud of myself,” he said.

Nicolas has completely turned his life around. He had left home at 16 and lived on the streets for almost four years.

“There were times when I lost hope, but there were a lot of good people always trying to help,” he said.

Late last year, a group working with marginalized youth found Nicolas. They persuaded him to enroll in the Starbucks Barista work placement program, which helps troubled young people build better futures.

“At Starbucks, we believe that anyone who wants to have a job should have a job,” said Karen Chong Siat Moy, a Starbucks Canada district manager.

At first, Nicolas didn't see himself serving designer coffee to yuppies, but it turns out he's a quick study, a hard worker and a really nice guy.

“He’s someone who's really optimistic, really someone who brings in a new energy, you know like he's eager to work,” said co-worker Kirubel Mehari.

People who work with the homeless say there's a lesson here – many people living on the street would be thrilled to have an opportunity. They haven't given up on life, and businesses shouldn't give up on them.