POSTED: Saturday, November 23, 2013 - 3:54pm
UPDATED: Sunday, November 24, 2013 - 7:36pm
ATLANTA (CNN) — Joel Hartman was homeless, hungry and dumpster diving for food when he came across what could have been an easy payday, a tourist's wallet with her identification and credit card.
Hartman, who admitted to HLN affiliate WSB that he's has done bad deeds in the past due to drinking and doing drugs, decided to take the high road and find the wallet's owner.
Hartman, 36, walked the streets of downtown Atlanta going to four different hotels before discovering the owner was staying at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center.
Surveillance videos captured Hartman turning in the wallet to hotel security guards. He gave them a fake name, "Josh Crabber," figuring they didn't need to know who he was, since he was doing the right thing.
Scott Stuckey, managing director of the hotel, found out that the wallet belonged to a French tourist in town for a conference.
The woman had reported to Atlanta police that day that her wallet had been stolen on November 7 and now, thanks to Hartman's perseverance, she had it back.
Stuckey knew it was his turn to do the tracking.
"When you're looking through food in the garbage can, it's probably one of the toughest times of his life. But when you find somebody's wallet and you do the right thing, I think we'd like to do the right thing by this person," Stuckey told WSB.
Stuckey and members of his staff hit the streets talking to homeless people, looking for their wallet hero. A week later, after hearing through word of mouth that he was being sought, Hartman showed up at the Omni, where Stuckey and hotel staff wanted to reward him in a big way.
The hotel put the homeless man up in a luxury room through the Thanksgiving holiday. The hotel also treated Hartman to room service and gave him $500. Hartman was speechless at the gesture.
All he could do was sweep Stuckey into a big hug and say thank you.
"It's just for doing the right thing. Maybe someone will see this, totally drugged out and stuff, like that ugly guy can do something about it. Maybe I can, too," Hartman said Friday.
Hartman told WSB that he's been homeless since March, when his longtime girlfriend died. Recently, he'd been sleeping in the woods in an Atlanta suburb. After he leaves the Omni, Hartman said he'll get on a freight train and head to Alaska.
Hartman said he has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and he has a hard time holding down a steady job, but he does odd jobs.