Recently, there was a GoFundMe scam, which raised $400,000 to assist a homeless man who had allegedly given his last $20 to a damsel in distress on the side of the highway to refill her gas tank. This story was completely made up. Then there’s the Manchester attack’s homeless “hero,” who may have pulled nails from the arms and faces of children after a terrorist bomb killed 22 people, but then he robbed the victims. Judge David Hernandez, who sentenced him to four years and three months in prison, even said, “You presented yourself as a hero. Sadly you were not the hero that you pretended to be. You were just a common thief.”
Society seems to eat up these stories that fuel their distaste for the homeless, but there are plenty of cases of true heroism that should be remembered and honored. The purpose of this list is to highlight the moments when those who have lost everything in life act as heroes despite societal expectations. In the wake of these “homeless heroes turned rotten” stories, we need to be reminded of some real heroes. There are so many cases when homeless individuals have thrown themselves into a situation, even putting their own life on the line, to help another in need.
In 2017, a Boston man named George Dakin was strolling down the sidewalk to meet his wife when a heart attack hit him, and he fell to his knees. It was called a “widowmaker” heart attack because 100 percent of his LAD artery was blocked. He lost his pulse for a full 28 minutes. Luckily, he happened to be in front of a group home for people seeking transitional housing. Most people pull out the picket signs when a group home tries to move into their neighborhood, but it saved Dakin’s life.
Austin Davis was staying at the group home at the time, and he raced to Dakin’s side. He performed CPR that kept Dakin alive until the ambulance arrived. It turns out that Davis had performed CPR four times in the past. Each time, he saved a person’s life. Davis said, “All I did was pump and pray, you know. I just hoped he’d make it.”
Dakin’s family was so grateful that they set up a GoFundMe for Davis. They bought him a used car and set him up in an apartment with the funds. They even helped to secure him a full-time position working at a Holiday Inn. Dakin’s daughter, Jodi, said, “Odds of escaping homelessness are about as bleak as walking away from a heart attack.” As of February 2018, $13,000 had been raised for Davis to help him transition into a new life.
At around 2:00 AM on July 28, 2018, Shane Drossard (left above) was resting on the bank of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis when he heard a splash. A woman had jumped off a bridge to kill herself but survived the fall. Now, she was struggling against the current. Drossard reached his hand toward her from the riverbank, but the woman lost the strength (or the will) to hold on. She let go of his hand. Drossard said, “Help’s coming!” and jumped into the dark water.
He struggled to hold onto her against the current. She wanted to give up. Still, he fought to keep their heads above water while reassuring her that she was beautiful and had a full life ahead of her. Someone else heard her screams and called 911. Finally, both were pulled from the river and saved. Can someone please give this guy a medal? And why not a roof over his head while we’re at it?
In November 2010, another damsel in distress needed a knight in shining armor, but again, it probably wasn’t what she expected. Adan Abobaker (right above) was beside the River Thames when a woman attempted to plunge to her death from Blackfriars Bridge. Not only did he get hypothermia from the freezing water, but all of his precious possessions left onshore were stolen. Afterward, he said, “I took a long time to get over it . . . I still dream about it. I remember the waves coming over my head and swimming down towards her.” At least this guy did receive a medal.
Anival Angulo is a young man with a hardened face and neck tattoos who lives in Las Vegas. He may not be what you imagine a hero looks like or even someone you want lurking in your neighborhood. He was doing just that, however, when he noticed smoke billowing from an apartment in 2017. Then, Angulo heard children screaming.
The gate was locked, so he jumped over it into the yard. He went to the door and saw a three-year-old girl. A 10-month-old infant was also inside. There was a steel deadbolt security bar on the door. He pulled until it bent upward and unlatched. Seriously, this is the kind of guy you want on your team when the apocalypse breaks out.
Las Vegas Fire and Rescue wrote on their Facebook page that the three-year-old “ran to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. He could see through the smoke the leg of an infant on the floor. He reached down and pulled the infant out.” So, it turns out that neck tattoos aren’t something to be afraid of, after all.
They say abuse happens closest to home. That was the case in Minden, Louisiana, in August 2017, when a family friend stole a two-month-old baby boy when the parent left the room to get a bottle from the fridge. He walked for miles with the infant before abandoning the boy under an overpass on Interstate 20. He then hitched a ride to a casino, where he confessed his crime to a complete stranger.
The kidnapper may have seemed a nutjob to some (especially since he claimed, “God made me do it,”) but the stranger who he confessed to wasn’t willing to take that risk. Even though the police have never endeared themselves to the homeless, this homeless man called them immediately. Police arrested the kidnapper and found the baby wrapped in a blanket, fast asleep. Chief Steve Cropper said, “The scariest thing about it—if [the baby] were able to roll off that ledge, he would have hit that concrete retaining ledge and probably would have rolled right out into the interstate.” So, another homeless gentleman acts fast and saves the day. Not all heroes wear capes!
What do you do when you see a knife-wielding man attempting to stab police officers? Run in the opposite direction, perhaps? Well, one man, lovingly dubbed “Trolley Man” online, had a different guttural reaction that was pure awesome sauce. At this point, mind you, the attacker, Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, had already killed a cafe owner and injured two others in his rampage on November 9, 2018, in Melbourne. Also, he had just set fire to a car full of gas cylinders near a busy street. So, the scene was literally red-hot. The terrorist was attempting to stab two policemen when Trolley Man lunged the shopping cart he was holding straight into Ali several times, helping to fend him off. (Ali was ultimately shot dead by police.)
Well, it turns out that living on the street leads to acts of desperation. Go figure. Sadly, the day before his heroic act, Trolley Man had broke into a CBD cafe and stole $500 from the register. He had also reportedly stolen a bicycle. So naturally, police wanted to have a chat about the burglaries after he had made his YouTube debut. Despite years of avoiding police at every turn, Trolley Man had an incentive to turn himself in. He was so beloved in the public eye that $155,000 had been raised on his behalf to get him off the streets. The community wanted to give him a second chance when they raised that life-changing sum of money for him. Now, Trolley Man, or Michael Rogers, is in a closely monitored support program where he can get the help and counseling he needs. Hopefully, harmless acts of burglary don’t disqualify hero status? There’s always redemption.
Early during the morning of Mother’s Day 2018 in Brooklyn, an elderly woman in her seventies pulls her shopping cart while the woman beside her walks on a cane. They are minding their own business when a peculiar man approaches, mumbling to himself. He violently attacks them out of the blue, but another man quickly appears from the shadows to save the day. People stop and stare from the sidelines as the situation escalates. One of the women is bleeding profusely from her head. Both women are in a daze. The assailant tries to run away, but the Good Samaritan wrestles him to the ground and holds him down until police show up.
Perhaps this anonymous, homeless hero still wanders the city streets, Batman-style, keeping his eyes peeled for any funny business.
One moment, a mother and son are safely inside their car, and in the next instant, the car loses traction and slides off the highway. It was completely submerged underwater when the paramedics arrived. It January 2016 in Salinas, California, and a mother and her eight-year-old son had landed in a creek that was flooded from a recent downpour. It quickly swept them away. They traveled the length of five football fields as they battled the raging current. They were even sucked under the highway at one point and spit out on the other side.
A man named Rick Biddle was camping along the embankment when he heard his dog start barking. The dog alerted the man to the flailing woman in the murky water below. It was a close call, but Biddle managed to rescue both mother and son, who were utterly exhausted. It’s a good thing that the drainage ditch ran through Biddle’s camp, or they may not have been so lucky.
It takes a real lowlife scumbag to hit-and-run in any situation, but somehow it’s even worse when the victim is a dog that can’t even call for help. There’s no excuse not to stop for a defenseless animal except, oh yeah, heartlessness. Thankfully, a homeless gentleman in Jackson, Mississippi, saw a dog get hit in November 2018 and scooped him up in his arms. He walked for miles with the wounded pooch until he found a vet. Despite some injuries, the dog (pictured above) was saved.
In another instance of puppy love, a Salt Lake City man named Ron Howell was panhandling on the side of the highway in 2018 when a woman dropped off a baby chihuahua in his lap. He knew he couldn’t take care of the tiny puppy, but now he didn’t have a choice. He met a woman who offered him a cigarette one day, and she listened to his story about the abandoned pup. She took some cutesy pictures, posted them on Facebook, and voila! The puppy found an owner, and $500 was raised for the chivalrous man who took the puppy in when no one else would.
Jesse Green lived in a tent by a Shell gas station in San Franciso. He would often walk down there to wash windshields for some spare change. One day in January 2018, he happened to glance inside the mini-mart, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw a man trying to rob the clerk. The attacker had the young woman pinned to the floor in a choke hold. Jesse yelled for help as he rushed inside and leaped onto the attacker to pry off his strangling grasp. Two other men followed suit, and they all worked to pull the robber off the clerk.
The attacker made a run for it, but police found him lingering in a stairwell close by, where they arrested him for aggravated assault and burglary. When told that he was a hero, Green said casually, “Aren’t we all, naturally, I mean we got to help each other when we see stuff like that, right? I mean, it made me start crying. It’s not something to get happy on, you know?” Spoken like a true hero.
What would you do if you found a plastic grocery bag stuffed with $20 bills? Okay, now be honest. By the way, the money totals $17,000. Well, Kevin Booth of Sumner, Washington, is a man who’s about as honest as they come. As an adult with special needs who had a brain tumor removed in high school, Booth was at a severe disadvantage in life straight out of the gate. After living on the streets for over seven years, he remains drug-free despite daily struggles.
A surveillance video shows Booth discovering the money at the door of the Sumner Food Bank in 2018. “I kind of looked at the bag a little bit, put it on the trash can here . . . that’s when I pulled out a twenty, sniffed it to make sure it was real, which it was real.” Kevin said. “It is a lot of money. It was hard to turn it in, at first. I’m going, ‘Do I do this? Do I turn it in?’ ” He waited for the first person to arrive at the food bank and turned it in.
After 90 days without anybody claiming the money, the food bank claimed it. Booth said, “This story here . . . this has been, I’d say, the most terrific story ever in my life. This is a story to talk about for years to come.” The pride that he feels in doing the right thing is priceless. It props him to “hero” status for sure.
Rock bottom has to be sleeping with your toddler in your arms on the floor of a public toilet at a railway station because you have run out of options. This happened to Chris Gardner when he was 27 years old. The odds were stacked against him from the very beginning. He was raised in poverty. His stepfather was an abusive alcoholic who eventually pushed his mother to attempt murder. Then Gardner was placed in the foster system, where so many children flounder. It didn’t seem that his life would work out so well, and it didn’t right away. He was homeless for a year in San Francisco before he eventually became a multimillionaire and had Will Smith star in the Hollywood movie of his life: The Pursuit of Happyness.
You may be wondering if this qualifies him as a hero. Well, some may argue that having unshakable hope in the face of despair is the quality of a true hero, not to mention his steely perseverance to not only survive but thrive for the sake of his son. However, I see your point. Gardner doesn’t just bask in his estimated worth of $60 million by buying private islands, a golden toilet, or $10,000 pajamas, as you may imagine millionaires do. Instead, he continues to be a champion for the homeless. He travels the globe 200 days of the year, giving motivational speeches. He also sponsors countless homeless charities and domestic abuse organizations. He’s still not giving up the fight.