Homeless man's honesty earns him $100,000

04:05, Sep 20 2013
Glen James
Homeless man Glen James handed in a bag containing US$40,000 and now his life has changed.

Honesty has - quite literally - paid off for a homeless man in the US who found a backpack containing more than US$40,000 in cash and traveller's cheques and immediately turned it in to police.

Now, well-wishers who learnt of Glen James' admirable deed have donated more than US$100,000 to help the 54-year-old get back on his feet.

James, a former courthouse employee who has been homeless since 2005, discovered the abandoned backpack at the South Bay Mall in Boston on Saturday afternoon.

When he unzipped the bag, he found US$2400 in cash, almost US$40,000 in traveller's cheques, a Chinese passport and other paperwork.

Rather than keep the money for himself, James immediately flagged down a police officer and handed the bag over.

His actions earned him praise from the city's police chief, Edward Davis, who gave James a special citation and thanked him for his "extraordinary show of character and honesty".

After reading about  James' selfless actions, a Virginia man who had never met James set up an online donation page to reward his honesty.

"Let's all chip in and help this man change his life," Ethan Whittington, 27, wrote on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe.

Whittington said he initially hoped to raise US$50,000 for James, but that goal was achieved within a day of the site going live, and money was still pouring in.

Now Whittington is hoping to raise US$250,000 for James in the hope that it can be used to buy him a house.

James, who stays at a homeless shelter in Boston, said he had been offered so much money on the street this week that he had finally been able to open a bank account.

When he found the backpack, he said he never considered keeping the cash.

"Even if I were desperate for money, I would not have kept even a penny of the money found," he said in a handwritten statement to the Boston Globe.

"God has always very well looked after me."

James, a bespectacled man who speaks with a stutter, wrote that he had been sitting outside the mall on Saturday when he noticed a young man sitting nearby.

James was writing a letter at the time, and did not notice when the young man walked away.

When he looked up, he saw the black backpack on the ground.

After looking inside the backpack, James immediately notified a passing police officer, who returned the bag to its owner, a student visiting Boston from China. Police said the backpack's owner didn't want his identity made public.

James said he had not met the man whose bag he found, but said he was "very glad to make sure" it was returned to him safely.

In his statement, James said he worked at a courthouse for 13 years as a file clerk, before he was fired.

He could have applied for another job, he said, but he suffered from an inner-ear disorder that caused prolonged vertigo spells.

"The shelter is the perfect living situation with someone who has Meniere's disease," he wrote. "There are many people in the shelter to attend to me."

James said he had siblings and other relatives he could live with, but he did not want to burden them.

"It's just nice to have some money in one's pockets so that, as a homeless man, I don't feel absolutely broke all the time," he said.

In a phone call to  Whittington, James said he wanted "to thank you so much for being so kind".

"Those donations will help me to get a brand new start in life," he said.

Whittington replied that James was the one who deserved all the credit.

"You're the one who has done everything," he said. "You've revived my faith in humanity and in the United States, man."

When the Boston police chief thanked James for his honesty, James was asked if there was anything he would like.

He replied: "No war."


Sydney Morning Herald