Hackensack Welfare Official Provides Valuable Lesson to Homeless About Dangers of Being Honest, Trustworthy

Turn in found money, lose your benefts


We need Bruce to sing about the harsh streets of Hackensack
Credit: Dougtone / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Readers may vaguely recall a homeless man by the name of James Brady from Hackensack, N.J. He made the national news earlier in the year because he found $850 on the street and did the right thing and turned it in. The money went unclaimed, and when six months went by, Brady was allowed to keep it. Then, of course, everything went to hell. The Record of Woodland Park explains:

Brady was denied General Assistance and Medicaid benefits by the Hackensack Human Services Department through Dec. 31 because he failed to report new income he received. The income, according to the agency, was the cash he found on Main Street last spring and that police returned to him in October after no one claimed it.

The good deed turned Brady, who was homeless at the time he found the money, into a minor celebrity. He was featured in news reports across the country and honored by the Hackensack City Council. Now, he said, he's being treated like a crook.

"This is stupid," Brady said. "I had already proven my honesty by turning in the $850. They were treating me like I was a dishonest individual, like I was trying to cheat them out of the money."

Agatha Toomey, director of Human Services, said she was just following rules when she denied the benefits. The rules, she said, require any lump sum payment to be reported as income.

"I'm sorry but we had to — I had to — follow regulations," she said. "He only pays five dollars [a month] in rent."

Read the whole story here.

The Record explained that the apartment he moved into over the summer requires him to apply for Medicaid and $210 in monthly assistance from the city of Hackensack. He will be losing both until the end of the year.

Toomey (who apparently is not a Harry Potter villain despite her name) has a reputation for running a tight ship, according to The Record, and the city is considering dumping their own Human Services Department and going through the county instead to save $400,000 a year. Government welfare programs somehow manage to develop reputations for being both very strict and very wasteful at the same time, and the Brady case shows exactly why. Those who follow the rules are the ones who are punished. If Brady had been dishonest and quietly kept the money, this wouldn't have happened.

Fortunately for Brady, reports of his punishment by the city have drawn more citizen donations, and a local United Way has established a dedicated fund for him. Presumably, Toomey will be watching those numbers like a hawk. Maybe he'll get enough private assistance so that he won't need the city's help anyway.


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  1. The people work for the rules, not the other way around.

  2. and did the right thing and turned it in.

    And yet this story, as described to me here, makes it sound like he DIDN’T do the “right” thing, the way things turned out.

    What a huge cluster fuck. Of course, it is Hackensak, NJ does involve any governement, anywhere, ever.

    1. Never involve the government. If you can’t identify the owner through your own methods, keep it, and shut up about it.

  3. I don’t see how it was a “income” or a “lump sum payment”. Either way, this dude should take the bus to Santa Monica. It pays to be homeless there…

    1. Or Santa Cruz, for that matter.

      1. I think the ones in Santa Cruz are considered “students”.

      2. Last I heard Santa Cruz was clearing encampments, the townies were dirty hipster street people before it was cool though.

  4. Whatever else this story brings, I love that a bureaucrat is put in a catch-22. Be efficient and be seen as a heartless automaton. Be charitable and be seen as wasteful of tax dollars. Either way, I hope she dislikes the public scrutiny.

  5. Superman: You don’t even care where that other missile is headed, do you?

    Lex Luthor: Of course I do. I know exactly where it’s headed. Hackensack, New Jersey.

  6. “This is stupid,” Brady said.

    That’s government in a nutshell, pall.

    1. That would be “pal.”

      I need to clean this keyboard!

      (Yeah, like that’s the problem… a dirty keyboard)

      1. See if you can trick a young Mexican into holding it over their head and turning it upside down.

  7. As the AlmightyJB has already noted, dependence = slavery.

    People ask me all the time why I dont get on disability. My answer; I dont want to have anything to do with those people, I dont even want them to know I exist.

    1. I must have missed the thread where you explained. Disabled?

      1. I think it was Warty related….best leave the topic alone.

  8. “Lex, my mother lives in Hackensack.”

    1. Is she Ffanx?

  9. Toomey (who apparently is not a Harry Potter villain despite her name)

    Sounds more like an Ayn Rand villain.

  10. I’m no fan of the government bureaucrats, but isn’t the sole purpose of welfare to help those with immediate needs on a short-term basis? This guy got a lot of donations from people and got a cool $850 tax-free. In my opinion, he should have been kicked off welfare. That’s enough to feed and clothe someone for at least two or three months (not including all the other donations he got).

    Sorry if I sound like a Grinch, but people like this gaming the system for their entire adult life are as much of what’s fucking the country up as the government bureaucrats that are there to take my money and give it to people like Mr. Brady.

    Fuck the whole lot of ’em.

    1. Oh, and have a nice day!

    2. He didn’t get the donations until after this ruling, iirc.

      1. I was led to believe he got a bunch of donations after he turned in the $850 and the news got ahold of it.

        Also, FT(linked)A: Brady, a former news photographer and market data analyst, fell on hard times more than a decade ago when he became unemployed and suffered from depression. He was supposed to be at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 for a business event ? and the knowledge that he could have been killed traumatized him, he said.

        After using all his savings and retirement funds, he ended up on the streets and later at the Bergen County homeless shelter in Hackensack. He had left the shelter for his daily walk on April 16 when he found and turned in the money he found in a bank envelope on the sidewalk.

        He probably isn’t as traumatized as the fuckers who actually died that day.

        1. “?Well!” thought Alice to herself, “?after such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they’ll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!” Which was very likely true.

          Trauma is for the living, sloop.

        2. Chronic inebreiate?

    3. One of the big problems with welfare programs in this country (and probably others) is that it usually takes a lot of time to navigate your way through the bureaucracy to get approved. I know through personal and family experience that it usually takes a couple of years to get disability, and several months to get approved for Medicaid, even for people who easily fit the qualification standards. And then, if any new income arises, as it did here, a person might lose all benefits and have to face the prospect of going through the process again once that money runs out.

      It’s one of the ways that Government benefits keep people in poverty. People are afraid to take any kind of temporary job, or even a permanent job if one is unsure he’ll be able to keep it, because of the strong possibility one will find oneself with no income at all for a period of months, at least.
      Add to this the fact that Government benefits usually put a very tight limit on how much one can have in a bank or other savings plan. (I was told that with disability, I would not be allowed more than $2000 in savings.) So people are prevented from building their own safety net that might otherwise have lowered the risks involved with leaving the welfare system.

      Just one of the ways Government assistance is screwed up. The (reasonable) desire to prevent fraud and insure that assistance goes to the truly needy results in people making the (rational from a personal perspective) decision to remain needy.

  11. The effective marginal income tax rate on the $850 was well over 100%, but not astronomically so.

    Just wait until people discover that ObamaCare has up to a 740,000% marginal rate at 4x poverty line.

  12. OT: Yes, the kitties want to eat you

    An employee at an Oregon animal sanctuary was killed when she was alone in a cougar cage, the organization said Sunday.

    Renee Radziwon-Chapman, 36, of Portland, Ore., had been the head keeper at WildCat Haven Sanctuary for nearly a decade before she was killed Saturday evening.

    1. 36 years old? Maybe it was just a cougar initiation ritual.

  13. Fortunately for Brady, reports of his punishment by the city have drawn more citizen donations, and a local United Way has established a dedicated fund for him.

    Wait, you mean, when the government drops the ball, private citizens actually engage in charity?

    Wow, it’s almost like there’d be more of that, without the government promising us it’s taking care of everyone for us, at the meager cost of 15-35% of our incomes every year. And doing a heck of a job, too, Brownie.

    1. Only 15-35%? Pretty sure that with all non-federal taxes included, it’s around (or over) 50%.

      And that’s silliness regardless. Why, without government, homeless orphans, women and old people would lie dead in the streets, while rich people laughed!

      1. Oh, no. Homeless people might be forced into accepting tainted charity from those awful God-botherers running their fascist private charities. Not like honest, respectable government handouts.

      2. I had no idea that the USA pre-medicaid/social security was the inspiration for Logan’s Run.

  14. I always figure that if you find cash, it’s yours.

    1. If I ever found $2 million dollars in a suitcase, I’d just sit on it for a loooong time while I formulated a way to clean it up.

      1. Step one is to get all the dye packs separated.

        1. Step 2: Give the IRS their cut. Walk in and declare $2M in additional income and give Uncle Sam $640k. After that, anyone who wants the whole $2M back has to fight the IRS.

          1. Except that the government will take the whole thing from you and then you must prove it innocent of whatever crime they say it is guilty of. Even then they might just keep it anyway, or drag things out until you die of old age. Fuck you that’s why and all.

            1. Nah. Once you’ve paid the vig, you’re good from the Feds perspective. Whatever you get into with the locals is your problem, but I’d change jurisdictions. Now, if you’re going to be “finding” a new suitcase every year or month…

      2. “United States of America vs. $2 Million in US Currency plus 1 suitcase”

  15. “He only pays five dollars [a month] in rent.”

    The rent is too damn low!

    1. Let’s be honest here, Rhywun, would you live in Hackensack if your rent were more than $5/month? This is purely market driven.

  16. I thought Kafka died, but I seem to be mistaken.

  17. I dont think Sammy So So is going to liek that.


    1. Then tell him to send some $ to the United Way in Hackensack!

  18. He should be sitting pretty once his disability goes through. Depression is a disability, right? The local rag ought to give him a job.

  19. how is depression a disability? Can I get disability for my chronic laziness? I swear some days it’s so bad I can’t even get out of bed!

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