“I didn’t have to thank him. I trusted him all along,” said Merrie Harris, 45, as she hugged Jay Valentine, 32, outside La Esquina on Kenmare Street.
Harris lent her card to Valentine there Monday after he asked her for change. Most people who witnessed the act of extreme generosity doubted he would ever come back. But a short time later, he returned with the card, stunning many and earning Valentine the title of Most Honest Homeless Man in the City.
Valentine told The Post that he was surprised to be handed the card, but he never thought to take advantage of Harris’ generosity.
“I wasn’t tempted at all,” said the 32-year-old Brooklyn native. “She trusted me, and I didn’t want to violate that trust. I would never do that.”
Valentine said he has been homeless for a few years, since he lost his job at a real-estate company that had allowed him to sleep in the office. He said he now spends his nights in an Internet cafe whose staff allows him to sleep on their chairs. He said he was hungry and low on cash on Monday when he saw Harris standing with friends outside the restaurant.
“I asked her for change and told her I wasn’t working,” he said.
“She said she only had a card. She said, ‘Can I trust you?’ I said, ‘I’m honest, yes.’
“I went and bought a few things and came back and gave her her credit card back, and everybody was surprised.
“I said thanks for trusting me. I guess she had a good sense of judgment. She knew I was trustworthy.”
Valentine said he bought deodorant, body wash, a pack of Nat Sherman cigarettes and Vitaminwater. It all cost about $25, he said.
“She was really lucky it was me she ran into” and not someone who would have stolen the card, Valentine said. “I was really in need. I only had a couple of dollars on me.”
“It sets a good example that people in need — like I am or worse — can and should be trusted,” he said. “Everybody in the restaurant was surprised. They probably thought I would run off with the card.”