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Homeless man who returned $42,000 now has a home

Glen James earned praise when he turned in a back pack containing $2,000 in cash, $39,000 in American Express Travelers Checks and a passport last month.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/File

The homeless Boston man who found and returned a backpack containing more than $42,000 in cash and traveler’s checks is about to embark on a new life.

A trust fund is being set up to accept more than $150,000 in donations that have been collected worldwide for Glen James, who is preparing to move into transitional housing in Cambridge within days, said Ethan Whittington, the Virginia man who created a Web donation site for him.

“I absolutely think this will be a good ending for everybody; I think we have the right steps in place,” said Whittington, who said he felt compelled to help after reading about James’s good deed.


Those steps include professional guidance “on what to do with the money, how to handle the money, how to get himself on his feet, how to pay his bills,” Whittington said. “We’ll also get him the medical assistance he needs and get him some job training.”

James, who has been homeless for five years and lives in a Boston shelter, could not be reached for comment Friday. However, his sister said the former court worker is “amazed and appreciative.”

Ethan Whittington led the effort that has raised about $150,000 for Glen James.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

James’s sister, who asked not to be identified, will be the fund’s trustee, but James will have access to the money, said Whittington. The money has not yet been transferred, the benefactor said.

James “plans to use the money in a way that will help change his life,” James’s sister said. “Ethan raised the funds so he would never be homeless again or stand in line begging.”

Whittington said the website, at www.gofundme.com , will be kept open indefinitely, and that a link will be added to send future contributions directly to James’s bank account. The fund keeps 8 percent of every donation.

James’s sister said she is not worried that her brother, who is in his mid-50s, will spend the money unwisely.


“Glen is a pretty thrifty person,” she said. “He’s not going out buying clothes. He’s not going out buying new shoes. He leads a very simple life.”

James became a reluctant figure in the news after he flagged down police at the South Bay shopping center in Dorchester, where he had noticed a backpack near an overturned shopping carriage.

The backpack, containing $2,400 in cash, nearly $40,000 in travelers checks, and a passport, had been left behind by a student visitor from China. After authorities returned the money to its owner, Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis praised James for an “extraordinary show of character and honesty.” The ripple effect has far exceeded Whittington’s expectations.

“I’m still kind of shocked about everything that’s been going on,” said the 27-year-old Whittington, who met James face-to-face for the first time Thursday in Boston. “It’s kind of restored my faith in humanity, with all the negative things we hear on a constant basis. It makes you realize there are decent people in this world.”

Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at macquarrie@