One homeless hero with a keen eye had his life transformed on a routine day that was anything but.

While getting a morning coffee might be routine for us, for Matthew Hay-Chapman it’s a brief escape from a hard life. He used to work as an air conditioner installer and locksmith until chronic back pain made it impossible.

Jobless, the 55-year-old was soon homeless, calling Golden Gate Park home. On top of that, his grown children had fallen on tough times and he had no means to help them.

Then one day as he exited McDonald’s, he noticed a suspicious van parked by Whole Foods. What happened next would set off a chaotic scene that would change his life forever.

What One Homeless Man Noticed in the Van Outside McDonald’s

a parked white van
Photo by Fabian

As per ABC7, Hay-Chapman recalled that the van had no plates and that there were two people sleeping inside. Yet when one of them suddenly exited, alarms went off in his head.

That’s because along with coffee, Hay-Chapman would keep up with current events by reading the newspapers left in bins, and he had a photographic memory. The man exiting the van was non other than Hossein Nayeri, one of two dangerous fugitives who escaped Orange County jail.

According to PEOPLE, Nayeri and his accomplice Jonathon Tieu escaped by cutting through steel bars and rappelling down the prison’s roof. They had been on the run for a week.

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When Nayeri went into the Mcdonald’s, Hay-Chapman knew that he had only minutes to act. And so with that motivation, he bolted directly across the street towards the nearby police station, waving down a patrol car.

It was at that moment that Nayeri noticed them from across the street and a chase ensued. Hay-Chapman recalled that chaos. “He bolts, the officer on foot bolts after him. Another officer comes over in his cruiser. I said, ‘They’re that way!'” he said.

After police found Nayeri, Hay-Chapman led them to the van, where they found Tieu. Yet, it’s what Hay-Chapman would unexpectedly find that makes this success story so special.

How a Hard Luck Hero Received a Huge Reward

a pile of money
Photo by Giorgio Trovato

Nothing could have prepared Hay-Chapman for the thanks he would get. That’s because the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved awarding him $100,000 for helping nab the fugitives.

Hailed as the ‘hard-luck hero,’ he said that he’ll use the money to start a new life and to help out his kids. When asked about why he did it, he said that he was just doing what was right.

Along with Hay-Chapman, two Target employees who spotted the fugitives also received $1,500 each and the man who owned the stolen van received $20,000.

How a Homeless Man Proved That Not All Heroes Wear Capes

You couldn’t have blamed Hay-Chapman if he did nothing despite recognizing Nayeri. After all, look at the hard-knock hand life’s dealt him. Why should he lift a finger for anyone? Heck, most of us couldn’t be bothered to put ourselves in that kind of danger.

Yet, Hay-Chapman, like all of us, is a member of society, one who has a strong sense of duty to do the right thing for everyone’s safety. To him, helping remove dangerous threats was reward enough. Sometimes, life has a way of being generous to the selfless. Now him and his children have a brighter future.

As for us, maybe if we look at the homeless as equals instead of outcasts, the world would be a better — and safer — place.