New Home Reunites Long-Separated Brothers

This is the time of year families reunite to celebrate the holidays. Many people travel a long way to be with their loved ones. For some, the distance is so great it's measured not in miles - but in years.

CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports on a reunion a decade in the making.

There are thousands of great stories to choose from at the Lemon Grove Library near San Diego. But we came here for just this one. Twenty-four-year-old Jose Robles is the assistant branch manager, and his story opens with three little boys.

"We would do everything together, we were like best friends," Jose said.

One day their mother said, "Here's $20, I bought you guys some groceries. I'm leaving." Jose said she left the three boys on their own.

Their dad was in jail so authorities removed the boys from the house, split them up, and placed them into foster care. Jose was just 12 at the time and he vowed then to never again let anyone take away his home - which in his mind, meant buying one.

Of course most kids won't save for anything that doesn't involve a video game controller, let alone a house. But Jose started working odd jobs in the 8th grade, and over the next 10 years he was able to amass a $15,000 down-payment.

He bought a foreclosed home earlier this year. It was a dump - but it was his dump.

"There are people who will rise above their circumstances in life," said Diane Cox. Cox is with a group called "Just in Time,"which helps foster kids transition to independent living.

"We knew this house was in great disrepair," Cox said. "So we put out the word and people just started volunteering."

Jose said he "wasn't expecting anything like this."

From carpet layers and cabinet makers, to appliance dealers and house painters - it seemed everyone in town wanted to do something - especially when they heard that Jose wanted the house not just for him, but for his brothers too.

Today, after 12 years apart, the Robles brothers are together again - under their own roof. Older brother Mario and younger brother Juan both say they had no idea Jose was saving for this. But they're sure glad he did. They say it's just like old times. Except now, Jose is like the dad.

"He's like a role model," Mario said.

The reunited brothers are gregarious and make a lot of noise. But Jose - a guy who's used to library conditions - says he doesn't mind in the least.

"It's exactly how I expected," Jose said. "We argue. It's great. We're a family."

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.