Fort Lauderdale’s Homeless Popeye

     Ron “Popeye” Gray

age – 56
                                                  address – roof of the Home Depot
                                                  occupation – panhandler 

      If you drive Sunrise Boulevard, you’ll probably recognize Popeye. He spends at least some of each day panhandling,  perched on a small 3 foot median on the corner of Sunrise Boulevard and NE 4th Avenue. (just outside Home Depot.)

     According to Popeye, (nicknamed that due to a sleepy eye) his problems that lead to his current condition started just after New Year’s in 2005. 

       He was a carpenter, a good one he says. (” I can still hang a door”).  But after drinking too much one Friday after work, he fell out of a truck. His leg suffered permanent nerve damage, leaving him mostly wheelchair bound.

     He lost his job, his wife, his house. Now, he wheels the chair straight out into traffic to panhandle. “I always go backwards, so I can see the cars coming”.

                                                               badly sunburned, nerve damaged leg

     He’s a sad case for sure. He doesn’t appear to be mentally disabled. He’s smart, but talks incessantly, and says he is writing a book, though I can’t imagine how.

      He did want me to see his head. It’s a mess. He says he’s basically healthy, though he “may have cancer”.

                                                                     Popeye’s head

     He says he eats alright, mostly at McDonalds ( prefers bacon cheddar and cheese), reads the paper  there when someone gives him one, and when it rains, ducks into the elevator on the Home Depot roof. He says the employees there feel for him and help him out when they can.

     He says most of his panhandling goes for cigarettes (anything but menthol), beer, and food for a little kitten named Tiger that he has adopted.

     He has a criminal record (spent a year “in the County” for cocaine possession and fighting with the Cops), but says he now has a good relationship with them – “they mostly drive by and wave”. 

     I asked him what his future holds. He’s not sure. He says he’s too independent to stay in shelters for long, and can’t get a job due to his leg (and the criminal record). He says he’s been trying forever to get disability, but says he hasn’t had any luck. He says he’s thinking of putting his leg on the track when the train goes by. He figures that will get him disability quick.

     He says until he does that, he’d really like some shoes, as he currently only has two left footed flip-flops. He’s a size 11 and a half, and wants some with “good treads”, ones that will help him push his chair.

     Anybody make any sense of this ?   ………    Tim


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