Homeless Man Who Finds And Returns $40K Gets An Even Bigger Reward

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and in the case of Glen James, the statement proves to be true. Except instead of trash, it was a large amount of cash that was accidentally misplaced by the owner.
For even the richest of people, finding a huge chunk of change would be a big deal. For James — a homeless man — it was even more impactful. Placed in a tough position, James came up with a plan for the money that’s now inspiring people across the world.
The United States’ biggest cities are all fighting to solve homelessness crises, but more and more people keep ending up on the streets. Glen James was just one of many who called sidewalks and alleyways his living room.
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James was homeless on the streets of Boston, Massachusetts. A man in his mid-50s, he had fallen on hard times, as an inner-ear condition that affected his balance made it very difficult for him to get a job.
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Jobless, Glen James relied on a local homeless shelter and often panhandled to scrounge together whatever he could to survive. Being homeless isn’t easy wherever you are, but the Boston winters were cruel. James suffered.
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One day Glen was in his normal spot outside a Boston-area strip mall, hoping for some kindness from strangers. He sat, leaning against the building for support and watching the people walk by. It was then he noticed something strange.
About a hundred yards away, there was a black lump on the ground. Out of habit, he was often on the lookout for any discarded items he might be able to use for himself with his very limited resources. So, he approached the bundle, unsure of what to expect.
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As he got closer, he saw that it was a worn black bag. This was a pretty lucky find — backpacks can be very useful for a transient lifestyle. However, James had no idea just how lucky he was until he unzipped the bag and saw what was inside.
Inside the abandoned backpack, Glen James found a Chinese passport, some personal items, and a whole bunch of cash. “There were many hundred dollar bills,” James described to NBC. In total, the bag held $2,400 in cash.
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In addition to the cash, the bag had an astounding $40,000 in travellers checks. For a homeless man who is forced to beg for money from strangers, this was a treasure trove. That money could change his life and get him off of the streets.
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There was one thing in the way — Glen James had morals. Strong ones, at that. But the free cash was tempting. Mustering his resolve, James knew exactly what he had to do. He snagged the backpack and took off.
Right to the local police station. Officers at the Boston precinct were taken aback when James arrived with the bag of money. He didn’t have a penny to his name, but he still did the right thing. And his journey was just beginning.
It turned out that the bag belonged to a Chinese student who was studying in the area and had lost track of his belongings. The bag was returned safely and James became a hometown hero. The Boston police decided they needed to do something for James.
Boston University
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis held a ceremony to honor Glen James and his superior character and honesty. They gifted him a plaque and televised the event on local news. This is when the story of Glen James caught the eye of Ethan Whittington.
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Whittington, who worked at a marketing firm, heard about James and his selfless act. He thought it was wrong that James would simply have to return to the streets after being given a plaque and a handshake. So, he decided to do something about it.
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Following the broadcast of James’ story, Whittington established an online fundraiser for the homeless citizen. His goal was to assist James in changing his life, ideally getting him off the streets of Boston. Overnight, the fund became viral.
In less than 48 hours, the fundraiser collected $73,000 from over 3,000 donors for Glen James. The money was sent with messages of praise for James. “Such a beautiful person. Reduced me to tears,” commented one donor. James was in awe.
“I just found James’ story to be inspiring,” Whittington explained. “We’re so inundated with negative news all the time. James gives hope to people and lets them know not all things in the world are bad.” The good deed was returned and then some. The fund would total $148,000 for James.
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When Whittington and James met for the first time in person, they embraced. When asked why he returned the money, his response was simple, “Even if I were desperate for money, I would not have kept even a penny,” he said.
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Not to mention, the ever-humble James thanked Whittington repeatedly for starting the fundraiser that would completely change his life. “Thank you — you’re the one who deserves the thank you for sure,” Whittington replied.
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Glen James is one of those rare individuals that restore your faith in humanity. Despite his difficult situation, he was focused on doing the right thing no matter what. His upstanding morals are truly inspiring.
The homeless population experiences many hardships that people who have not lived on the streets will never understand. But as evidenced by the story of Glen James, luck can change in an an instant.
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Elmer Alvarez was homeless. The freezing winds and the snow piles that accumulate faster than snowplows can keep sweep ’em away were more dangerous to him than a guy in a heated home, car, and office.
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Still, he already had several winters in New Haven under his belt, so he understood the difficulties of the months ahead. Times had been worse for Elmer, despite his current situation.
Drug addiction had led Elmer down a difficult path. Even though he didn’t have a stable place to rest his head each night, he managed to kick his addictions by attending NA meetings. Talk about beating the odds!
Unfortunately, finding a way out of being homeless constantly tormented him; getting yourself off the streets is much easier said than done. But pacing the familiar streets on one chilly November morning, Elmer walked right up to an opportunity…
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Right in the center of the path was a bit a paper. Most people walking by wouldn’t give the scrap a second glance, but Elmer stopped and examined the forgotten note.
It wasn’t a discarded receipt or a bit of trash: the paper was a freshly signed check. Air whooshed from his lungs when his eyes landed on the amount written on the line…
The amount of the check was a stunning $10,000. With it endorsed and ready to go, Elmer could’ve transformed his life with that kind of cheddar! No one was around, nothing was stopping him from running to the nearest bank.
But taking the money never crossed Elmer’s mind, not for a second. He turned the check over and, low and behold, a phone number was in fact listed on the back.
Elmer walked the streets until he finally managed to track down a friend with a cellphone. As a Spanish speaker, he had his friend make the call to the check’s addressee.
Stefano Santucci / Flickr
At the same time, in an office a few blocks away, a prominent businesswoman heard her phone ring. Roberta Hoskie, a self-made real estate magnate, was CEO and President of both Outreach Realty Services and Outreach School of Real Estate. She answered the call.
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On the other line, Elmer’s friend explained that his friend found her substantial check and wanted to return it to her. Roberta was floored. Had she really lost something so important?
She rifled through her bag, not believing it was possible, only to quickly realize he was right. Shocked that someone was kind enough to reach out, she agreed to meet him immediately.
Once on the street, Roberta opened Facebook Live to document the resolution of the stranger’s good deed. She spotted Elmer and his friend, and couldn’t thank them enough for doing the right thing.
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With Elmer too polite to draw attention to himself, his friend let Roberta know her savior was, in fact, homeless. This struck a chord with Roberta on a personal level that made the events all the more meaningful…
See, before she was a high-powered real estate queen, Roberta faced similar obstacles to Elmer’s. At 17 years old, Roberta was pregnant. To care for her child she had to drop out of school.
She’d been a financially difficult place to begin with, but now, with another mouth to feed, she and her child had no choice but to enter housing shelters to avoid living on the streets.
But thanks to a crucial internship at Yale University that catapulted her life out of debilitating poverty, Roberta was able to break out of the cycle — but she never forgot her time in the shelters.
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It was because of her past that she knew that her run in with Elmer was not a coincidence. She resolved to take the opportunity to pay it forward, in a big way.
Telling Elmer to wait right there, she hurried back to her office to get her checkbook. She wanted to do more for Elmer than just give him some temporary reprieve.
While brainstorming on Facebook live, a suggestion from a follower gave her the idea. Roberta smiled and vowed, “I’m going to teach him how to fish.”
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Back on the street, Roberta handed over a check, this one addressed to Elmer, and he burst into grateful tears. The pair hugged, and Roberta shared her own story with him.
Elmer couldn’t believe just how much they had in common. Their newfound connection fresh in their hearts, they parted ways. That’s when Roberta put her plans into motion.
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But prejudice reunited them faster than Roberta expected. When Elmer went to cash his check, even with a signature and his ID, shockingly, the bank refused to help him.
They suspected it was fraudulent, just because Elmer wasn’t their typical customer. A quick call to Roberta eased their unwarranted suspicion about the homeless man.
Two weeks later, Roberta arranged a meeting with Elmer. Thanks to her Facebook video, over 13,000 people heard about Elmer’s good deed, and it piqued the interest of the news media.
When Elmer walked in the door, he was greeted with applause by a packed room. He was totally overwhelmed. This wasn’t what he expected when he agreed to meet! Crazier still, things were about to get even more surprising for him…
Roberta Hoskie / Facebook
First, Elmer was presented with a thank you certificate from Ms. Millionaire Mindset, an organization aimed at combating poverty. Next, Roberta laid out her true plan to “teach Elmer to fish.”
Kiwi Report
Instead of just paying him for his kindness and honesty, Roberta was going to teach him how to set himself up for success. Elmer was going to be given classes at her real estate school, at no cost to him.
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Before classes started, Elmer would be taught to improve his English skills. But Roberta had another even bigger surprise. Emotion strained her voice while she explained the best part of her plan.
Roberta told him she’d found him a place to live, an apartment he could share with his girlfriend, with the first 6 months of rent and bills completely covered in full!
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Emotions spilled over. Elmer wrapped Roberta in a hug that said everything he couldn’t. Tears streaked his face, and the relief that he wouldn’t face another night on the streets washed over him.
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But Roberta thought of everything, even beyond the 6-month gift. After taking the real estate classes, Elmer was set up with a standing job interview at her colleague’s real estate office.
Once he felt prepared, he could tackle the interview. So thrilled with gratitude, he burst out, “I’m ready now!” But granting all Elmer’s dreams wasn’t Roberta’s goal. She wanted to truly pay it forward…
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So, a few weeks later, they met up to see how he was progressing with his real estate classes. With her followers watching live, it was Elmer’s turn to deliver some good news.
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Waiting to reveal the results of his real estate exam together, Roberta flipped the cover and beamed. Elmer had passed the test! Now just one test remained between him and an endless path of opportunity.
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Public interest in Elmer and Roberta’s inspirational friendship continued to grow. In December, Spanish language television station Telemundo invited the duo on a show to share their unique story.
Elmer revealed that the catalyst was the sudden death of his 33-year-old brother. Tortured by grief, Elmer fell into a life addiction and crime. All in all, he served 5 stints in jail, and in turn, lost contact with the rest of his family…
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…Until the host told him to turn around. Standing on the stage were Elmer’s two sisters! Viewers watched live as the family rejoiced in their emotional reunion. Roberta, who had been communicating via a translator, wept!
Right when his heart rate stabilized from the big reveal, there came another jolt. After years of not seeing each other, Elmer’s mother walked out on to the stage. It was all too much for everyone’s tear ducts.
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Elmer’s simple choice to do the right thing put a set of wheels into motion. A slew of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities presented themselves to Elmer, and Roberta fulfilled her mission to help end the cycle of poverty.
Roberta Hoskie / Instagram
In a few months’ time, Elmer aced his final real estate exam and Roberta put him on the Board of Directors of her company. Motivated, determined not to squander his gifts, Elmer joined the ranks of the National Association of Realtors.
Friends joined by a bizarre twist of fate, Roberta and Elmer focused their energies on a project — with their non-profit, Outreach Foundation — to help other homeless individuals.
Their goal was to acquire dilapidated properties and flip them into transitional homes that offer services beyond the average shelter for the homeless. It would grant people the same shot Elmer was given.

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