Homeless man wins $500,000 jackpot five years after recession destroyed his business
ASPEN, Colo. — For years, Michael Engfors built the wood trim, doors and shelves in the mansions in the exclusive resort town of Aspen. Then, during the recession, he began losing work, and he eventually became homeless about five years ago. But his luck changed last week when he took $10 that he earned working odd jobs to buy a scratch ticket and hit the $500,000 jackpot.
Vince Savage, who runs the Aspen Homeless Shelter where Engfors had been staying, said he drove the 61-year-old to a Colorado Lottery claims office in Grand Junction on Monday and he walked out with a check for somewhere between $300,000 and $400,000 after taxes. He said they drove right to Engfors’ bank to deposit the winnings in a checking account that had less than a dollar in it.
“This is a guy who has been at it for years and struggling for years,” Savage said.
Even though the shelter promoted news of Engfors’ win — which was confirmed by the Colorado Lottery — Savage said Engfors decided he did not want to talk about it or become a celebrity over it.
Lottery spokeswoman Brooke Christopher said Engfors’ scratch ticket was the last of three Eternal Splendor scratch tickets worth $500,000 to be sold in the state. Engfors had a one-in-840,000 chance of winning.
Engfors couldn’t be located Wednesday. Savage said he hoped to travel to New York to reunite with his adult daughter whom he hasn’t seen in at least 15 years.
While the winnings should change Engfors life in many ways, he probably still can’t afford a place of his own in Aspen, where homes sell for millions, rather than hundreds of thousands, of dollars. Savage said the steep price of housing is a major stress for working people there and many of the 20 or so people who end up staying overnight in the shelter, which is open only during the winter, are working like Engfors.
He hopes Engfors will be able find a fixer-upper a bit farther away from mansions he used to work on.
“It just seems just that he would win,” he said.