This is the 'pickiest panhandler in New York City', who only accepts 'high-quality' food
If you're experienced with living with a big city, then you'll probably have come across a homeless person or two in your time. Usually bearded, bedraggled and begging for change, you'll find them outside many restaurants and ATMs, no matter which country you live in.
I always do my best to help any homeless person I can, but often in this age of cards and online payments, I'm usually not carrying around the coins and spare change they desire. When this happens, I usually offer them some of my food, but if I were to try that out in New York City, one very picky panhandler might demand that I take it back.
Meet Ron Clarke. He's 51 years old, and he usually likes to take his cup of coins to the Union Market area of New York City, a fancy grocery spot recently christened by a local realtor as "Millionaire Market". Clarke wouldn't exactly disagree. “By standing in front of Union Market, I get nice groceries,” he explained.
But now, having acquired a taste for the higher life, if you want to buy some food for Clarke, it might be more a little more difficult to do so. Case in point: this generous woman on a recent Sunday morning, who decided to buy Clarke an egg salad sandwich, but he asked her to get him a tuna salad instead.
"I do not eat the yellow of the egg; it does not agree with me. I like the white of the egg," he explained, and to her credit, she did go back and get the sandwich Clarke wanted. "I say, ‘I’m sorry, but I will not accept it.’ They take it back and walk away. Even hungry, I will not eat what I don’t like."
But rather than Clarke being unnecessarily picky or believing he deserves a higher calibre of meal, the panhandler explained that he was trying to stay healthy. "Number one, I watch my cholesterol," he explained. "I do not eat processed meat or white potatoes. I won’t take canned fruit."
"If I am sitting and somebody comes by with [what’s left of] a smoothie and offers it to me, I will not take that drink and put it in my stomach. Doctors [from nearby Methodist Hospital] applaud me for it. There could be something bad in there and I can wind up in the emergency room."
You can tell from his general fussiness that Clarke is not your average homeless person, and has plans to get back into employment. Born in Barbados, Clarke moved to New York around 20 years ago, jumping between jobs until his last gig two years ago, where he worked to care for the homeless. He was laid off from that job, but is hoping for a new one while "staying with a friend".
“I like pork chops, turkey, seedless cucumbers, rice pilaf, whole-wheat bread, couscous and avocados,” Clarke said of his favourite foods, but while he's all about the healthy eating, he does have a guilty pleasure to indulge in, "once in a blue moon". So, if you happen to be in New York City and have a cinnamon and raisin bagel with some ginger ale, be sure to test his resolve.