L.A. Times Columnist Helps Homeless Man Claim Some Found Money

It’s amazing what can happen when the person making the phone calls is an Los Angeles Times city columnist rather than a sometimes-homeless Vietnam vet.

Steve Lopez recently discovered that 56-year-old native Rex Baker (pictured), after finding $882 in cash on an MTA bus and being told the money could be his after 30 days if it was unclaimed, had been informed that actually the transit agency’s policy is to give any such dollars to local charity. Baker was ready to chalk it up as a hard lesson learned, until Lopez got involved.

Lopez rightly suggested that a policy short-circuiting the finder discourages the very act of honesty. After an MTA spokesman took the journalist’s concerns upstairs, it was good news for Baker.

When I spoke to Metro Chief Executive Art Leahy Tuesday, he had decided to return the money to Baker and change the MTA policy so that in the future, unclaimed cash is returned to the finder [after 30 days]…

Baker was grateful… He said he would take a homeless shoeshine man named Eddie Jones to dinner, then bank the rest in the hope that it will help him qualify for an apartment he can call his own.

Surprisingly, a total of only $7,000 in cash remains unclaimed each year after being found by third parties on MTA buses and subways.