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Chen Guangbiao's lavish lunch for NYC homeless: Fury over $300 missing dessert

A group of homeless folks in NYC became irate after sitting down in luxury and eating an elegant lunch at the Boathouse in Central Park, claiming they had just been exploited. The invitation for this lunch came from a wealthy Chinese businessman, Recycling tycoon Chen Guangbiao, who is known for his publicity stunts, according to MSN News on June 25.

Homeless promised $300 in cash, but all they got was lunch!
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

250 homeless quests were bused in and they dined on filet Mignon and seared tuna plus all the fixings that come along with a high-end lunch. The three-course meal was served by the staff of the Boathouse dressed in their uniform suits and bow ties.

Chen took an ad out in American newspapers inviting the homeless to this luncheon and along with the meal the ad promised a $300 cash handout. When the diners learned that the $300 in cash wasn’t coming, this news was not received very well.

Chen put on a grin and spoke with a handful of Chinese reporters just as dessert was being served. This is when an angry shout came from within the crowd of homeless. “Don’t lie to the people” and “We came here for $300, but now he’s changed his tune,” shouted Ernest St. Pierre.

Chen told reporters that because the U.S. was so generous during the relief efforts after disasters in China, he wanted to give back and this was his way of doing so. He also said that he hopes this will prompt others who are wealthy to do the same.

So what happened to make Chen change his mind about handing out the $300 cash to each person who came for lunch? Michele Tolson, who is the director of public relations at the Homeless Mission in NYC, said that no cash would be handed out to individuals.

Instead Chen decided to donate $90, to the mission which will go a long way in helping all the homeless, not just the 250 that dined at the Boathouse. She also said that it took a month and a half of negotiations to get Chen to change his mind and donate the lump sum to the mission instead of using it for $300 handouts.

Fox News reports that officials from the shelter said the $300 cash handouts were misrepresented. The officials said that $300 per homeless person who attended the lunch would go to the mission, not handed out as cash. Apparently the newspaper ad promised the money to the folks who came to the luncheon, but that was a mistake. It sounds as if Chen was convinced that the money would do more good in a lump sum to the shelter rather than in the $300 cash handouts as promised.

While that makes much more sense, it still was a considered a dirty deed after the promise was made. This group of homeless folks did not sugar coat how they felt about this broken promise. Some had concrete plans for that $300 handout, one man was using it to buy a ticket home and hoping to get back on the right track once there.

Another man, whose attire didn’t leave much to be desired, said he was planning to buy some clean clothes and other necessities with the money. Not everyone in the group was irate, some expressed thanks for the opportunity to have this luscious lunch and get away from their downtrodden life for a few hours.

Still others felt that this glamorous meal was nothing more than a publicity stunt for Chen, which made him look good for helping out the homeless. In all actuality it gave the homeless a treat, this did nothing to help them out of their cycle of poverty. When the last morsel of dessert was finished the homeless were put back on a bus and dropped off back in their reality.

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