Elmer Alvarez and Roberta Hoskie, a real estate broker in New Haven, Connecticut, are now collaborating to build a transitional house for homeless people.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 28, 2023. It has since been updated.
When Elmer Alvarez found a check for $10,000, he only wanted to return it to its rightful owner. Like most individuals who experience homelessness, Alvarez has known demons such as drug addiction, mental illness and a criminal past. However, since deciding to turn his life around three years ago, he has been clean.
When he found the check, he could have cashed it, but the good Samaritan chose not to do so. "It never crossed my mind because I made a decision to turn my life over. I've been clean for three years," he told CBS News. The money reportedly belonged to Roberta Hoskie, a real estate broker in New Haven, Connecticut.
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A friend helped Alvarez call the phone number on the check, and that is how he tracked her down. "I was just thinking about how that person was feeling by losing an amount of a check like that, an amount of money like that," Alvarez told WTNH. "I'd be feeling kind of desperate."
Hoskie recorded her meeting with Alvarez, but what happened next will leave you teary-eyed. In return for his honesty, she helped him find an apartment and covered his rent for seven months until he could support himself again. She put him through real estate school, and they are currently working on a small real estate project. Although it is not a profitable venture, the outcome that will come from it is worth more than any amount. They plan to build a transitional house with various aids and services for homeless teenagers and young adults.
If judging a book by its cover does not dictate the content within, then why, do we look at the outside appearance of people and become judgmental? We must have more love and compassion for one another.— Roberta Hoskie (@Roberta_Hoskie) July 2, 2021
Alvarez and Hoskie share similar beginnings, even though they seem to live in different worlds on the surface. Before building her multi-million dollar company, Roberta was a homeless teenage mom who worked her way out of poverty and is now helping Alvarez make his dreams come true.
"He had no idea who the person was behind the check," Hoskie said. "He didn’t know that I was a single mother. I at one point was on welfare. At one point found myself homeless." Meanwhile, Alvarez explained that giving the check back and seeing Hoskie happy was better than $10,000, and he would do it all over again. "There need to be more people like Elmer Alvarez," said Hoskie. "He's a golden heart guy. He's a phenomenal guy."
Per endhomelessness.org, there were 580,466 people experiencing homelessness on the streets and shelters of America in January 2020. Those in families with kids made up 30% of the homeless population, with the remaining 70% being primarily single people. Homeless people of different racial and ethnic groups lived and coexisted in every state and territory.
A report released by Boston University’s Initiative on Cities (IoC), titled "Mayors and America's Homelessness Crisis," shared the views of elected city leaders on the challenges of dealing with homelessness. The authors of the report, Katherine Levine Einstein and Charley E. Willison, noted that homelessness in the United States is a growing problem in cities of all sizes.
Today @BUonCities, supported by @Citi @RockefellerFdn @cmtysolutions, released the second set of findings from the 2021 #MeninoSurvey, the only nationally representative survey of American mayors. Read how mayors are tackling #homelessness in their cities: https://t.co/vieJ73PdIF pic.twitter.com/HAGUH3aPCY— Initiative on Cities (@BUonCities) January 18, 2022
The IoC reports that the mayors are aware of the public's interest in addressing the homelessness crisis. However, mayors feel the pressure from the lack of funding and public opposition—from both residents and business owners.
"It’s a sort of 'not in my backyard' phenomenon where people don't want to see visible visual manifestations of homelessness in their neighborhoods. But they also don't want to see the policy solution. It's a challenging policy area," Einstein said. The survey found that 73 percent of mayors see themselves as accountable for addressing homelessness. While only 19 percent felt they had "a great deal" of influence on homelessness, another 38 percent said they had little or no influence.