Hackensack works to help man get benefits back after finding money

Jim Dolan explains the man's story and how many now want to help.
November 13, 2013 5:19:15 AM PST
A formerly homeless northern New Jersey man is seeing an outpouring of public support after his plight touched people across the nation.

Not that anyone was taking responsibility Tuesday night, but they sure were sorry that James Brady lost his benefits as a result of his honesty.

"I'm sorry," said Kathleen Canestrino, Deputy Mayor.

"I'm so sorry," Hackensack City Councilwoman Rose Greenman said.

"Sorry this happened," said John Labrosse, Jr., Mayor of Hackensack.

James Brady did an extraordinary thing. He found $850 in cash, in an envelope on the street in Hackensack, and this recently homeless man handed that cash over to the police, because it was the right thing to do.

"A little voice went off in my head and it was my mother, 'It's not yours," you've got certain moral values and maybe some people lose them but I haven't lost mine," Brady said.

But that doesn't get us back to the meeting. The reason the Hackensack City Council was apologizing Tuesday night.

It's that when no one claimed the money and it was returned to Mr. Brady, the city cut off his benefits and he was threatened once again, with homelessness.

Mr. Brady didn't know he had to claim the money as income, but the rules are clear.

Naturally, people were outraged that Brady was now being punished for not understanding the rules, after doing something so unusually right.

"There is the letter of the law and there is the spirit of the law, and in this particular instance the spirit was broken," Councilwoman Greenman said.

But Brady now has Ms. Jeanne Baratta on his side and she made some calls to the governor's office.

"We're going to work with Mr. Brady with the governor's office and we're going to show him what to do to restore all of his benefits so there won't be a gap in his service," said Jeanne Baratta, Bergen County Executive's Office

For his part, Mr. Brady is not bitter. He has, after all, known worse times.

"I'm in a lot better condition than I was a few years ago so I mean, things are still looking up for me," Brady said.

Bergen County's United Way has set up an account specifically for Brady through its Compassion Fund.

Brady, who was homeless when he found the money, has since found housing. He was featured in news reports nationwide for turning in the money, despite his own financial struggles.

(Some information from the Associated Press)