Roberta Hoskie hadn’t even realized she’d lost anything when she received a phone call saying someone had found a $10,000 check written out to her. And when she learned that someone was homeless, she knew she had to do something to thank him properly.
Hoskie’s own past might just have been the inspiration for the way she reacted to Elmer Alvarez’s act of kindness. Although she had since found success as a real estate broker, her early years in New Haven, Connecticut, had been difficult. She grew up with her single mother and three brothers and sisters, and the family were anything but wealthy.
Hoskie had experienced not having a roof over her head, and she had relied on welfare services to get her through a teenage pregnancy. But she wouldn’t remain in a state of need for long; at 20, she started working at Yale University, which afforded her the means to buy a home.
Four years on, Hoskie’s investment had quadrupled in value, and selling it gave her the funds she needed to start a business, Outreach Property Management. She has since used her success to give back to the community via affordable housing initiatives, economic development and business and real estate training courses.
In November 2017, a new chapter began in her pay-it-forwards good karma story. Hoskie took to Facebook Live after she received an unexpected phone call: someone had found a $10,000 check made out to her, and wanted to hand it over.
“I dropped my check and he called,” Hoskie said in her video. “I didn’t even know I dropped this check.” She later explained to daily newspaper the New Haven Register, “I thought I had it with my stuff in my car. I must have had it and it slipped.”
So, with her Facebook video rolling, Hoskie headed down the street to find the person who had her check. “I’m going to meet him, I don’t even know who he is,” she said while walking. The man she’d eventually find, Elmer Alvarez, had quite a story of his own to tell.
Alvarez stood on the sidewalk with his friend, who spoke to Hoskie on his behalf as he handed over the check. The friend gave Hoskie some background about Alvarez, saying, “He’s out here homeless.” It was a revelation that left Hoskie truly shocked.
The unnamed friend said that he had communicated on the phone because Alvarez didn’t speak English very well. But none of that affected Hoskie’s image of the man; instead, their exchange simply led Hoskie to proclaim, “There are good people out here,” and show off her intact check to the camera.
But the real estate guru had more than just a verbal “thank you” up her sleeve. She later gave Alvarez another one of her checks – but this time, the money was for him. He wept when he saw how generous Hoskie had been, telling the New Haven Register in November 2017 that he hoped to turn his life around and find a job.
The day Alvarez returned the check to Hoskie proved he was well on his way. He had a simple credo that guided his actions. “First of all, I believe in God,” the homeless man said. “My faith is what keeps me going through… I always believe that once you do right, right always comes back to you.”
And Hoskie would continue to repay Alvarez’s faith in karma. She invited him to take classes at her real estate institution – free of charge. And she reported a groundswell of support for him online, with more than 13,000 people watching her Facebook Live clip within a day of it being posted.
People from as far away as California and Texas reached out to Hoskie, hoping they could help Alvarez, too. To them and everyone else, she promised she’d continue to stay in touch with him and “teach him to fish” through the training at her real estate school.
As it turned out, Hoskie’s efforts didn’t end there, either. A few weeks after she had handed Alvarez a check and an invitation to attend her training courses, she presented him with another unexpected gift.
In front of TV cameras, Hoskie gave Alvarez six months’ free housing so he could really get back on his feet. The honest check-finder, who broke down in tears upon hearing the news, told reporters he was shocked – he had thought he was there for a simple meeting with the real estate agent.
Instead Hoskie explained, “You don’t have to worry about being in the cold this winter. We have housing for you.” That wasn’t all: she also gave Alvarez’s girlfriend the opportunity to attend real estate school, and promised the down-at-heel Good Samaritan English classes, advice on his future career and an interview with her business associate.
Alvarez could only express his shock after hearing about his second round of gifts. “I didn’t expect all this,” he told the New Haven Register. “Honestly, I gave it from the bottom of my heart and I expected nothing back in return.”
But Alvarez also said he had always been convinced there was goodness in the world. “I always say that there’s always angels around,” he told reporters. “I’m just trying to be successful, too, in life, so I’m just going to take advantage.”
As for Hoskie, she could only extol the goodness of others – of many people – just as she had in her original Facebook video. “I don’t care what you say,” she had said in her initial recording. “There are so many really good people in this world.”
And Hoskie said Alvarez had taught her another shareable lesson. Admitting it sounded like a truism, she nonetheless told the New Haven Register, “You cannot judge a book by its cover,” adding, “There needs to be more people like Elmer.”