Joel Hartman was digging through trash, hoping to find someone’s leftover food. Instead, he found a French woman’s wallet. Inside was her identification and credit card.
Hartman, 36, said he could’ve kept it. But he didn’t. He went to four hotels until he succeeded in finding the one where the wallet’s owner was staying.
That was two weeks ago.
Friday night, Hartman got payback for his good deed. He’ll be a guest at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center through Thanksgiving. He’ll be fed and given new clothes. And he’s got $500 in his pocket, thanks to a hotel staff that searched tirelessly to find him.
“He did the right thing, and now I want to do the right thing for this guy,” Scott Stuckey, the hotel’s general manager, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Hartman said he has been homeless since March, when his longtime girlfriend died and life got too unbearable. He can’t remember when he last had a shower. And one night this week, he slept in the woods. But when he found the wallet, he was focused on one thing. Giving it back.
“Poor woman, she already lost her wallet,” Hartman said. “That’s got to be awful to be in another country and have this happen.”
The wallet’s owner, Anne Drouart of France, was in town for a nephrology convention when someone pushed her and took her bag as she walked to her car Nov. 7, according to a police report obtained by The AJC. Drouart, 45, told police she wasn’t able to get a good look at the suspect.
When Hartman took the wallet to the Omni at CNN Center, staff members found that Drouart was staying at the hotel. Hartman left the wallet with security guards and identified himself as Josh Crabber, thinking no one needed his real name. He gave no contact information. He simply went back to the streets, lugging a 90-pound bag containing all of his possessions.
Stuckey provided the AJC and local television stations with a surveillance camera image of a scruffy-faced man wearing camouflage who’d returned the wallet. Then Friday, Stuckey and other staff members hit the streets in search of a man whose name they did not know.
Late Friday, Hartman showed up when word-of-mouth reached him that he was a sought-after hero. The same guy in the picture was back in the hotel lobby, this time wondering what all the fuss was about.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Hartman said. “I would hope someone would’ve done the same thing for me. I had no intention of anything like this ever happening.”
From his 12th floor hotel room, Hartman said he was anxious to sleep in a bed, relieved that he can set down his bag without worrying that someone will snatch it from him.
More importantly, he was ready for a shower.
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