This Man Lived On The Streets Without An Identity- Then Police Discovered This


Immigrant


John Helinski was born in Poland, before venturing to start a new life in the States. In 2012 after losing his job, he found himself alone and destitute, living on the streets. He had lost all identity records, which were confiscated. He had little to comfort him.

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Tampa A Harsh Spot To Land In


Tampa is known by locals as a holiday oasis, boasting white sandy beaches and luxurious hotels. Helinski’s life was a far cry from those who basked in the sun on the coast. Without an ID, the immigrant had difficult finding a homeless shelter which would accept him. With no hope of refuge, he fended for himself on the streets.

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Had To Fend For Himself


“I just managed on my own… I remember having a cardboard box, and sleeping by the bus stop,” he told an ABC news reporter. He shamefully admitted: “I’d be underneath the benches there, and no one would see me.” To the wider world beyond his makeshift home, Helinski was invisible.

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Lost In The System


Without identification, there was little that could be done to help the aging man. He had fallen through the cracks of the system, seemingly destined to become one of the lost souls who struggle with their immigrant status. Helsinki had come to the land of opportunity but had soon found himself with little to live for.

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Feeling Hopeless


Helsinki had to resort to some desperate measures in order to survive. He searched for scraps of food and discarded items that would aid him in his daily life. He made a makeshift bed from cardboard. He was fast losing hope, what could be done?

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Lost And Forgotten


Helinski had no relatives who he could call for assistance. When he could make his way to a shelter he received a hot meal and a roof over his head. But few can truly survive without the companionship and love that all people crave, deserve and need. He had no one and he often questioned whether life was worth this torment. Little did he know, his luck was about to turn.

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One Day Something Happened


One fateful day, the homeless man’s life would change for the better. He had heard of the Community Housing Solutions Center (DACCO) in the Hillsborough County area of Tampa. He decided to try his luck at the center, hoping to find a bed for the approaching winter nights.

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Someone Needed To Do Something About The Homeless Situation


DACCO provides safe and secure accommodation for the homeless. In 2015, it opened its doors to the destitute and hopeless. According to Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative’s Chief Executive Officer Antoinette Triplett, its mission was “to reduce the number of people who experience homelessness, and also the length of time people experience homelessness.”

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Would Someone Finally Help


At DACCO, a generous caseworker was given the assignment to oversee Helinski’s dire situation. He was determined to help the immigrant. He would search out the man’s identity, he would change this man’s life.

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He Had A Feeling In His Gut


The caseworker’s intuition told him that this would be a special case, that Helsinki deserved his help and aid. He was committed to showing this man the compassion he deserved. He knew that this particular case would define his career – and perhaps his life.

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Catch 22


The adamant caseworker, Charles Inman, explained to ABC Action News, “He needed to have an identification, but we couldn’t get an identification without a birth certificate.” So what could be done? Was this the unfortunate fate that would befall Helinski?

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How Would He Let The Old Man Down Gently?


But Inman decided to persevere. So many people are in need of human compassion. In a world of hardship, the caseworker’s life goal was to alleviate the harsh reality of those living on the streets. He would not be defeated.

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What Would It Be?


He arrived at the center the following morning to check up on Helinski, to his heartbreaking surprise, he found the aging man on his knees – he was praying. After years of loss, the man had not lost his faith. Inman could not bear the thought of revealing the situation to Helsinki – there was little that could be done.

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No Other Option


In the face of what appeared to be a hopeless situation, Inman was resolute. “There was no other option but to succeed,” he said. “You know, the thought of putting a 62-year-old man back on the street wasn’t acceptable,” the caseworker shared with the Daily Mail.

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An Unlikely Lifeline


Inman decided to go to the authorities, he enlisted Tampa police officer Dan McDonald to assist him in the search for the man’s identity. He too, would not be deterred, “I like a challenge,” he said in the ABC Action News report.

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Detective Skills Come Out


Even though Helinski was born in the country of Poland, he was a recognized U.S. citizen. “First we had to figure out that we needed a consular record,” McDonald explained. When that had eventually been found, the police officer and caseworker could go on to get him a driver’s license and a social security card. In a miraculous act of kindness – perhaps all was not lost.

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One Step Closer


The positive turn of events did much to lift the two men’s spirit. Helinski could finally be recognized as a person and citizen – he would be able to get on his feet, perhaps begin a new life – what would come next?

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A Shot In The Dark


Helinski was overjoyed to be able to prove his identity again. He would finally become a functioning member of society. “He went beyond the call of duty,” he said of Inman to ABC Action News. But this was not the end of Helinski’s story – a shocking discovery would soon be made.

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Unexpected Turn Of Events


The old man’s identity was about to reveal to them an likely secret. They had found out who the man was on paper, but something was not quite right. The two men would continue to unearth the unraveling mystery.

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About To Give Up


Helinski had nothing to his name. Although his identity had been found, beginning a new life would be a harsh and trying endeavor. Could his resilient faith be the reason for what happened next?

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Shocking Discovery


The two men discovered that the homeless man had a forgotten bank account in his name. Over the years, the bank in question had changed its name. “It was Landmark Bank, and then it became Bank of America,” Helinski explained to ABC Action News.

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Confusion And Disbelief


Because of the unforeseen name change, the account had soon been forgotten by Helinski. The amount the count initially held had been small. The bank had seemingly disappeared.

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Starting To Become Clear


As a certified American citizen, Helinski was entitled to social security benefits. Unbeknownst to the man, the benefits had been building up for years and years, accumulating money that had gone unspent and forgotten. The bank account had been uncovered and Helinski had been saved. What would his newfound riches be worth?

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Would Secure Housing Be An Option?


‘I think we were both stunned, not quite sure what to say,” police officer McDonald told ABC Action News. The sizable amount was more than enough to provide Helinski with secure housing.

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Complete Shock


“As a homeless liaison officer, the bread and butter of my work often involves hopping department to department trying to help homeless people find the ID they need in order to get things like work and housing,” McDonald said. He was shocked by the discovery, he had never come across a case quite like this one.

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How Could This Be?


Helinski would finally make it off the streets. He could find a home, begin a new life, perhaps find someone to share it with after years of desperate solitude. He was lost for words, endlessly grateful to the men who had offered him salvation.

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Lost For Words- Doesn’t Seem Real


“I guess I’m exhilarated, excited, you know,” Helinski told ABC Action News in 2015. His first thought was to put a deposit down on a small apartment, four walls he could finally call his own.

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Close Call


“This situation looked really difficult, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to end up,” Inman told ABC News today. “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.”

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What Would The Future Hold?


Whatever Helinski’s future held, his faith had led him to find kindess, salvation and compassion. The world would soon know his story, and be awed by the stroke of divine good fortune that had come upon him in desperate times.

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Is Helinski In Good Hands?


“He has the money now to move into his own home …He deserves it. He’s a very good, sweet and genuine man.” Said the police officer. He promised to check up on Helinski. The two men had bonded during their time together. He had gained something else – a friend.

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Not Always Such A Happy Ending


Sadly, not all stories have the happy ending that Helinski was blessed with. Homelessness is a rising epidemic in America. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there were roughly 554,000 homeless people living somewhere in the United States on a given night in 2017.

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Sending The World A Message


Helinski’s story became national news. People were touched by his amazing story. Through faith and the compassion of good-natured people, this man’s life had been transformed. From desperate hopelessness to the possibility of new love and life, Helinski was a changed man.