Homeless Man Living in Cardboard Box for 3 Years, But Cop Finds Forgotten Bank Account


John Helinski, 62, was homeless and had been living in a cardboard box beside a Tampa, Florida, bus stop for over three years.

He often slept under the bus stop benches, and most people didn’t even notice he was there. For those difficult years, he felt invisible.

All of his identification documents had also been stolen from him. Being alone and originally from Poland, it was almost impossible for him to get new identification.

He’d also tried to apply for temporary housing at Florida’s Community Housing Solutions Center, but because he had no way to prove his identity, he was denied. It was a vicious cycle of failure, and he’d gotten used to being beaten down.

After hearing his story, Charles Inman, a case worker with community health provider DACCO, wanted to do something.

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And with the help of Tampa Police Department Officer Daniel McDonald, the two were determined to help Helinski get back on his feet.

“This situation looked really difficult, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to end up,” Inman said after first meeting Helinski.

“If it failed, it meant we’d put a 62-year-old man on the street, and Officer McDonald and I were not OK with that.” But with the two of them helping, Helinski finally stood a chance.

“John was born in Poland, so it made it even more difficult for him to get new ID,” McDonald said. “I helped him out and said, ‘We will figure this out and get you a bed.'”

The pair worked with Helinski to collect all of the identification documents he needed. “First, I drove him personally to the local tax collector’s office, where he was able to get a temporary State of Florida ID card,” McDonald explained.

With that ID, Helinski could finally get his birth record from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.

And once they had that, they could go to a social security office and find out what happened to the benefits he used to have. But the men were shocked when the Social Security worker told them that Helinski had never stopped receiving benefits.

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After a trip to the bank, the men uncovered a forgotten bank account with money, the social security checks, and more.

Helinski even had enough money in his forgotten accounts to move into a home of his own. For now, he is living in the community homes Inman works with, but his future is looking much brighter.

“He has the money now to move into his own home,” McDonald says. “He deserves it. He’s a very good, sweet and genuine man.”

“Very good, sweet, and genuine” could just as easily be applied to the two men who found Helinski and made his causes their own. Thanks to these two, Helinski’s future is brighter than ever, and he shouldn’t have to resort to cardboard boxes ever again.

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Liz was a senior story editor for The Western Journal.
Liz was a senior story editor for The Western Journal.
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