When Roberta Hoskie lost a $10,000 check, she never imagined a homeless man would return it. But Roberta could relate to Elmer Alvarez's situation more than he imagined, and together, they embarked on a touching journey...
Meet Roberta Hoskie
This is Roberta Hoskie, an adorable baby with a bright future ahead. Roberta was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and while she'd go on to great things, the truth was that her childhood was far from easy.
"There are plenty of people that have been in [tough] situations and couldn't come out or let the past haunt them," Roberta reflected of a common experience - one that she's all too familiar with. As a kid, Hoskie's at-home environment was quite turbulent.
Becoming a Young Mom
Things were tough financially and there were some unhealthy dynamics in the family. When Roberta was eight years old, her parents parted ways. The young girl lived with her mom and three siblings after that. But they didn't always have a roof over their head; the Hoskie's were homeless at times.
So Roberta had a tough upbringing. Yet, true to her character, Hoskie powered through. But things took a turn when she got pregnant at seventeen years old. With an unreliable baby daddy and not a lot of money, the future boss babe had a long road ahead...
She Dropped Out of School
The young mom finally welcomed her beautiful baby boy at the age of eighteen. She had dropped out of high school by then, and although Roberta worked hard to support her son, they just couldn't make ends meet. The pair survived on welfare earnings of around $400 per month.
It wasn't a lot of money for feeding two mouths and an endless supply of diapers. But financial struggles were nothing new for Roberta, who had twenty-two of her family members living in the same housing projects as she and the newborn. Hoskie recalled the frightening happenings outside their home while her son slept.
A Life-Changing Moment
Roberta loved her baby boy so much. It was hard to support both the kid and herself, especially without much help from the baby daddy, but she had absolutely no regrets. Still, Hoskie couldn't help but think about all of the hardships that undoubtedly awaited the family of two.
And then, one day in church, everything changed. Roberta stood holding her son in the prayer line in front of the pastor. "Look at your son. His life is directly linked to yours," the minister said. "Directly linked to what you do." When the religious leader laid his hands on the young mom, she suddenly fainted.
"What Is My Life?"
The pastor's words were emotionally and physically overwhelming. Of course, Roberta knew that as a mom, she had a little person who would depend on her for a long time. But hearing those words, "His life is directly linked to yours," made something go off inside Hoskie.
It was a life-changing moment. "What is my life?" the struggle single mother wondered. Roberta grew up in dire situations, sometimes without a roof over her head. She couldn't help but wonder if that's what the future had in store for her son. "What do I have to offer this kid?" Hoskie asked herself.
A New Purpose
While Roberta had in some ways resigned to living a life on welfare and struggling to support her family, she now had a shift in her mindset. The odds might be against them, but Hoskie wanted better for their little family. So the young mom decided to make it happen.
"It's a matter of believing that it's possible. The minute you believe it's possible and don't give yourself a Plan B, then only A can happen," Roberta detailed. "My plan A was that my son will not have generational poverty, be a drug dealer, or be lost to the streets."
Going Back to School
And so Roberta got to work. She no longer envisioned a future with financial struggles and frightening happenings outside her son's bedroom window. Instead, Hoskie planned for a life filled with stable housing, food, and a fruitful career. But there was a lot to do to get there.
First thing was first: the high school dropout needed to get back into school. So Roberta completed the requirements needed to get into college. Before she knew it, Hoskie started an associate degree in Office Administration at Gateway Community and Technical College.
Buying a Home
Roberta successfully graduated with an associate degree from the community school by the time she was twenty years old. And being in New Haven, Connecticut, meant the graduate was close to one of the top Ivy League institutions in the country: Yale University.
Hoskie got an internship at Yale's Department of Pediatrics. And the university opened other doors Roberta never imagined possible: homeownership. The Ivy League had a home buying program for those in need of some assistance, and the young mom successfully bought a house for her family.
A Profitable Investment
Roberta went from living in housing projects to owning a home; the 20-year-old could hardly believe how far she'd come in just a few years. Hoskie and her son moved into the four-family house and began renovating it. And since it was bigger than they needed, Roberta even rented out some of the space.
The money from the tenants' rent became another stream of income for the young mom while she interned at Yale. But the family of two eventually moved on. Roberta sold the house for around $300,000, after buying it for about $88,000 four years prior, and made a hefty profit.
She Was Still Unhappy
The small fam moved into a new home, and Roberta also got a new job. She became Chief Administrator at Albert Einstein College of Medicine's Pediatrics East Coast Division, a big step-up from the Yale internship. Things were coming together... yet Hoskie wasn't content.
The mom-of-one had so much to be thankful for, yet Roberta wasn't satisfied. She felt guilty for not appreciating all the goodness in her life. "[But then] g-d told me: 'That is the way I designed you because I have work for you to do,'" Hoskie recalled. "'And what I have for you to do, you cannot be satisfied.'"
Starting Her Own Business
Roberta felt selfish for not appreciating how far she'd come. From a childhood in homelessness to a homeowner, why couldn't the mom-of-one be satisfied? But this divine vision cleared things up: Hoskie realized there was a bigger plan for her and her son.
So Roberta brainstormed and realized that she would need to be her own boss in order to keep growing and climbing the financial ladder. The hard-working mom opened Outreach Property management, "a residential property management company that bridges landlords with qualified tenants," in 2004. That was just the beginning.
Taking Things to the Next Level
Even as she became a business owner, Roberta never forgot her roots. She founded the Outreach Foundation nonprofit in 2006 to give back to the community. Then in 2011, the entrepreneur opened Outreach Realty Servicing and Outreach School of Real Estate.
"I know first hand about poverty and what many in the city are going through," Hoskie explained. "The school was started during a time when people were complaining that there were no jobs in the city; I wanted to help people create jobs with the opportunity to use real estate." Little did Roberta know just how much she'd help a certain someone.
As Roberta expanded her business ventures, she started making the big bucks. And that wasn't the real estate broker's only source of income: Hoskie also bought, renovated, and rented out homes, bringing in some extra cash every month. And the mom-of-one wanted to share the wealth.
So she founded Ms. Millionaire Mindset International School, where women come together to learn how to break the "Curse of Poverty." Roberta taught her peers everything she'd learned on the road from poverty to financial stability. But still, Hoskie never imagined what the future had in store.
Taking Back Her Story
The second part of this story starts with Roberta trying to take back her story. What do we mean by that? Well, the real estate broker's rags-to-riches journey became quite popular throughout the years. Hoskie was no stranger to seeing her name and life details on local headlines.
But Roberta didn't think that the articles, television segments, radio interviews, and podcasts truly embodied everything about her path to financial well-being. So Hoskie decided to put things into her own words and started writing journal entries. This opened up an old wound.
It Was Hard
Roberta didn't initially realize how painful the writing process would be. These journal entries meant revisiting some extremely painful and traumatic experiences in her life, especially from childhood. Hoskie wanted to ultimately turn these pieces into a book but found herself putting off the work.
"I was beating myself up for procrastinating," she recalled, "[My son] Oliver said: 'Mom, maybe the part that you need in the book hasn't happened, yet.'" And then another life-changing event took place that would end up being the inspiration her memoir needed...
She Lost $10,000
While walking around town one day, Roberta accidentally dropped a check. But not just any check - this piece of paper was worth a whopping $10,000. But Hoskie had gone from living paycheck-to-paycheck to having multiple streams of income and a stable salary, so she didn't notice the mishap.
That is until the real estate broker got a call from a random number. Someone named Elmer Alvarez found the $10,000 check somewhere on the streets of New Haven and called about returning it. Only then did Roberta realize what she'd lost. But Hoskie was about to gain a whole lot more.
He Was Homeless
Roberta felt overwhelming gratitude for this person who wanted to return the money, no strings attached. Maybe it's hardly surprising to hear that the real estate broker imagined someone clean cut and wearing a suit would be the one returning the check.
"I expected to see someone in a suit and tie," Hoskie said after getting the call from the good Samaritan. So when she went to meet Elmer, Roberta was beyond shocked at what he shared. Alvarez was homeless, an experience Hoskie was all too familiar with.
Why Didn't He Keep the Money?
Elmer was a far cry from the white-collar worker Roberta imagined would kindly return a $10,000 check. The man standing before her looked worn out from living on the streets. So why did Alvarez so selflessly give back the money, not expecting anything in return?
The way Elmer put it, he wanted to "do the right thing." The first thing that came to the good Samaritan's mind was, "I got to look for this person," Alvarez explained. "It never crossed my mind [to try cashing the check] because I made a decision to turn my life over."
Paying It Back
Elmer struggled with substance abuse for years, but Alvarez had been sober for three years by the time he found the $10,000 check. And staying healthy wasn't the only thing the good Samaritan cared about. He also wanted to continually do the right thing in his community.
"I didn't want to continue living the way I was," Elmer shared. And Roberta saw that. She recognized someone who, much like her old self, wanted something better in life. So the wealthy real estate broker decided to do something big to help kind Alvarez.
She Got Him a Place
Roberta gave Elmer a check for an undisclosed amount in return for his selflessness. But that wasn't all. Hoskie hated the thought of this kind man living on the streets, cold and alone. So the real estate agent showed him the kind of support she once needed.
"This winter, you don't have to worry about being in the cold," Roberta told her new friend. "We have housing for you." Elmer couldn't help but get emotional as Hoskie explained how she'd found him an apartment and would pay the rent for the next six months. And that wasn't the end of it...
He Went to School
Roberta wanted to pay Elmer's apartment rent until he was back on his feet. But she knew how hard breaking free of poverty and homelessness was. So Hoskie took things one step further and helped Alvarez get on a career path that would keep a roof over his head.
The broker offered Elmer a spot in her real estate school - free of charge. "She's giving me the push. I'm going to go for it," Alvarez emotionally said. "I'm going to take it from here." But while his good deed had no strings attached, this was a different story...
There Was One Condition
Elmer jumped on the opportunity to become a real estate agent, and it didn't take long for him to finish the course. "I'm waiting for my last test right now for my date so I can go and take my last and final test," he said at the time. But going to Roberta's school entailed one condition.
All that Hoskie requested in return was that Elmer pay it forward when he could. "There was a time in my life where I wouldn't be able to give anything," Roberta explained. "To be able to be in a position to give, it's so heartfelt." Would Alvarez agree?
"There Was a Purpose Behind That Check"
Roberta wanted to help Elmer. Not only to show him an appreciation for returning the $10,000, but also because she knew what it was like to be in his shoes. Would Alvarez agree to continue the cycle of kindness? Not surprisingly, he did. "I feel good," the good Samaritan said.
"I feel great, and I just want to keep helping others," Elmer shared. "There was a purpose behind that check. Like Roberta says, I believe there's more to it." And there certainly was. But before finding out what the purpose was, these new friends would make headlines...
Big things awaited the generous duo, and it would happen in the public's eye. When Roberta and Elmer first met, Hoskie had recorded their meet on Facebook Live. She also filmed when informing Alvarez that he would no longer be homeless. And the emotional exchanges went viral.
"You had no idea the person behind that check," Roberta said to Elmer. "You had no idea of the heart." He replied, "I returned it from the bottom of my heart not expecting nothing in return." Their story shattered stereotypes and caught people's attention. But these two weren't done making waves.
They Became Business Partners
Fortunately, Elmer's hard work paid off: the newly-homed good Samaritan passed his real estate exams and was officially qualified to work. So with a certificate in hand and a roof over his head, Alvarez felt ready to make good on his promise and pay it forward.
But he wasn't going to do it alone. Roberta and Elmer teamed up to give back to their community in a way close to both their hearts. "I know what it is to be homeless. Nobody deserves to live like that," Alvarez said. Hoskie added, "I remember. I remember what it felt like to be in that shelter."
Taking advantage of their shared experiences and Roberta's hard-earned wealth, the duo took on an exciting real estate project together. It wouldn't make them any money, but it was the kind of giving back they committed to. So what was the grand idea?
They planned on building a transitional housing program for teenagers and young adults experiencing homelessness. The community initiative would provide other services as well, like counseling, financial advising, and access to education. Roberta and Elmer got started.
He Became an Adviser
The first big step in making their dream a reality was purchasing a house. So Roberta's real estate agency bought a two-family home that would initially serve fifteen people. "We want to provide them with substance abuse classes. We want education, employment opportunities, church services," Elmer detailed.
"It's his vision that God gave him when he was in the shelters that is helping us shape what we are in the process of putting together right now," Roberta said of her partner. And eventually, Alvarez would take on an even bigger role as an advisor. And there was more good stuff coming.
"Poverty Curse Broken"
Not only did Elmer lead the transitional housing initiative with Roberta, but he also became a member of her real estate company's Board of Directors. And in a full-circle moment, the whole saga between the two strangers was exactly the push Hoskie needed to finish her book.
Seeing how strangers could change each other's lives was the inspiration Roberta needed to finish the memoir, even if it meant revisiting difficult times. "If my story can help inspired and have someone believe it is possible, whatever it is, then to me, that's fulfilling," the author said of her book, Poverty Curse Broken.
Still Spreading Good
And Roberta wasn't done changing lives. Aside from her and Elmer's project, the real estate broker expanded on other community initiatives. In fact, one of them even made its way to global waters. Hoskie's Millionaire Mindset Sisterhood Program went international.
Always on a quest to give back, Roberta took the project out of Connecticut and to New Jersey, Georgia, New York, Tennessee, Los Angeles, and even the Dominican Republic. The goal? To help more people break the cycle of poverty by promoting real estate investment, group economics, and profit-sharing.
Her New Home Ownership Program
It seemed that Roberta Hoskie was the gift that kept on giving. Her most recent community endeavor? Founding 1000 Black Families Home Ownership Program, an organization whose mission is to close the "systemic wealth gap by creating generational wealth."
The nonprofit, which was founded in 2020, also aims to fast-track homeownership for Black families. One thing's for sure: it's pretty clear that the future is a little brighter thanks to Roberta and Elmer's seemingly endless kindness. We can't wait to see what else the power duo brings.