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Bootless Homeless Guy Bootless Again

A photograph of a New York cop putting boots on a homeless man went viral. The man remains bootless, however.

NYT (“Homeless Man Is Grateful for Officer’s Gift of Boots. But He Again Is Barefoot.“)

After Officer Lawrence DePrimo knelt beside a barefoot man on a bitterly cold November night in Times Square, giving him a pair of boots, a photo of his random act of good will quickly took on a life of its own — becoming a symbol for a million acts of kindness that go unnoticed every day and a reminder that even in this tough, often anonymous city, people can still look out for one another.

Officer DePrimo was celebrated on front pages and morning talk shows, the Police Department came away with a burnished image and millions got a smile from a nice story.

But what of the shoeless man?

For days, his bare feet — blistered and battered — were well known. Yet precise details about him proved elusive.

His name is Jeffrey Hillman, and on Sunday night, he was once again wandering the streets — this time on the Upper West Side — with no shoes.

The $100 pair of boots that Officer DePrimo had bought for him at a Skechers store on Nov. 14 were nowhere to be seen.

“Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” Mr. Hillman said in an interview on Broadway in the 70s. “I could lose my life.”

Mr. Hillman, 54, was by turns aggrieved, grateful and taken aback by all the attention that had come his way — even as he struggled to figure out what to do about it.

“I was put on YouTube, I was put on everything without permission. What do I get?” he said. “This went around the world, and I want a piece of the pie.”

As it turns out, for the chronically homeless, the lack of shoes—or even a home—is often a symptom rather than a core problem to be fixed.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. John Peabody says:

    Vouchers! Vouchers will solve everything! Give him a $50 voucher for Payless Shoes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. ernieyeball says:

    Last I looked Wal Mart sold inexpensive tennis shoes for $12 and up and sox for 3 pair for about $6. They might just keep Mr. Hillman’s feet warm for well under $100 and be less likely to threaten his life. .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. Meg says:

    This story was nothing but NYPD cop propaganda from the very beginning. That cop did nothing to help that man. But he did get some good press for the turds in blue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  4. ernieyeball says:

    And to think that Meg is gem spelled backwards!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  5. michael reynolds says:

    It was a good and decent gesture. The officer did not have the power to solve this man’s likely mental illness. He did have the power to buy him some shoes. The fact that the underlying problem remains does not nothing to tarnish the officer’s moral example. I hope he does not succumb to cynicism, nor should we.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  6. Mansoor says:

    There is absolutely no need to attack or vilify the officer or Mr. Hillman.

    I would quote Michael Reynolds from above as he has so very aptly stated:

    It was a good and decent gesture. The officer did not have the power to solve this man’s likely mental illness. He did have the power to buy him some shoes. The fact that the underlying problem remains does not nothing to tarnish the officer’s moral example. I hope he does not succumb to cynicism, nor should we.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0