The formerly homeless New Jersey man who lost welfare benefits when he didn't report income from cash he found and turned over to police spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday as local officials try to figure out if they can restore his government assistance.
James Brady spoke about losing his benefits after the good deed before Hackensack City Council, questioning the Hackensack Human Services Department for denying him Medicaid benefits and general assistance because he didn't report the $850 he found on the sidewalk in April and turned over to police. After it sat unclaimed for six months, police returned the money to Brady.
"I have no problem on cracking down on the homeless when they're doing something wrong," he said. "But when they're not doing something wrong, they should be treated with the same respect you'd give to any other citizen."
Hackensack Mayor John LaBrosse told The Record of Woodland Park that he'd like to see the decision reversed. Alex Morales, a Bergen County social services consultant, told the paper local agencies are seeing what they can do to help Brady, who recently found housing.
"We're going to check the rules to see what can be done," Morales said. "We want to be very careful so he can benefit and so we can help him get to self sufficiency."
Meanwhile, offers of support have been pouring in from across the country for the 59-year-old Brady, a former photographer and data analyst. Bergen County's United Way chapter has raised $3,500 for the man.
According to The Record, the United Way is working with Brady to develop a program of goods and services tailored to his needs because cash assistance could also affect Brady's benefits going forward.