Real estate broker and man who returned $10,000 check help the homeless

A lost check and a found purpose

New Haven, Conn. — Many homeless people are haunted by drug addiction, mental illness or a criminal past. Indeed, Elmer Alvarez knows those demons all too well. But he said just because a person is without a home, it doesn't mean they're void of character.

For example, the day he found a check for $10,000, he said the first thing that came to mind was, "I got to look for this person." He said it never crossed his mind to try and get it cashed.

"It never crossed my mind because I made a decision to turn my life over. I've been clean for three years," Elmer said.  

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Elmer Alvarez CBS News

The money belonged to New Haven, Connecticut, real estate broker Roberta Hoskie. She recorded her meeting with the good Samaritan.

"I expected to find a guy all nice, clean shaven and blue suit like you," she said.

Instead she got Elmer, who cried when Roberta offered him a reward.

"It shattered the stereotypes," Roberta said.

This all happened about a year ago. But the best part of the story is what has happened since. She helped him find an apartment and paid his rent for seven months until he was back on his feet. She also put him through real estate school, and together, they're now working on a little real estate project. It won't make them a dime, but it could be very rewarding.

In the next year, they plan to build a transitional house for homeless teenagers and young adults that will provide all kinds of services that Elmer said are crucial.

"I know what it is to be homeless. Nobody deserves to live like that," he said.

Roberta could not agree more.

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Roberta Hoskie and Elmer Alvarez. CBS News

"Because I remember. I remember what it felt like to be in that shelter," she said.

Before she built her multi-million dollar company, Roberta was also homeless — a teenage mom who worked her way out of poverty and is now offering Elmer a chance to make his dream come true as well. Eventually, he'll serve as an adviser at the transitional house.

A lost check and a found purpose.

To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, email us: OnTheRoad@cbsnews.com.
  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

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