A Tampa, Fla. homeless man will soon be going from living on the streets to living in a decent home, thanks to a compassionate cop and a diligent caseworker who helped him find a long-forgotten bank account, CNN is reporting.
John Helinski had been living on the streets for as long as three years. The 62-year-old, who declined to discuss how he became homeless, often slept in a cardboard box when he could find one, or under a park bench when he couldn’t. Like so many homeless men and women in Tampa, or anywhere else, he had no Social Security card, no identification. He was a ghost, long since forgotten about by everyone.
Tampa Police Officer Dan McDonald, whose job includes intervening with Tampa’s homeless, was appalled at the idea of an elderly gentleman being forced to live on the streets, according to WFTS (Tampa). He helped the man move into a homeless shelter, where caseworker Charles Inman began working with him.
Helinski told his caseworker that he had a bank account at one time, and he was getting his monthly Social Security benefit deposited into it. But there were several problems: the bank had changed names – possibly several times, so he had no means of knowing where his account was, if it even still existed at all. He had no I.D. And, since he was born in Poland, getting him an identification would require mountains of paperwork, international phone calls, and some dumb luck.
But neither the caseworker nor the cop would give up on the aging man, says Inman.
“He needed to have an identification, but we couldn’t get an identification without a birth certificate. There was no other option to succeed. You know, the thought of putting a 62-year-old man back on the street wasn’t acceptable.”
And for the motivated Tampa Bay cop, he relished the idea of solving a huge bureaucratic problem.
“I enjoy it because I like a challenge.”
Eventually, after all the i’s were dotted and all the t’s were crossed, the homeless man was able to access his forgotten bank account – and what a bank account it was! Helinski’s Social Security benefits continued to pile up in the account, month after month, for three years, earning interest.
Helinski wouldn’t say how much money was in his forgotten bank account, but it’s enough to allow him to live modestly in a decent apartment. He may even have enough money for a down payment on a house – if he decides to go that route.
“I guess I’m exhilarated, excited, you know.”
As of this post, Helinski is still living in a homeless shelter, as he and his caseworker come up with a plan to help him transition to his new home.
[Image courtesy of: Shutterstock/Cylonphoto]