A police officer’s act of kindness toward a homeless man, which became a viral sensation after being posted on Facebook, has now turned into a repeat of the sad reality of life living on the streets of New York City.
Jeffrey Hillman, the barefoot man who was photographed on a freezing day near Times Square getting a pair of warm socks and boots from Officer Larry DePrimo, was spotted a few days later — again barefooted.
On Sunday night, when a New York Times reporter
tracked him down, Jeffrey Hillman, 54, was again roaming the cold streets with no shoes.
The $100 pair of boots that DePrimo had bought for him at a Sketchers store were gone.
“Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” Hillman told the reporter. “I could lose my life.”
All the attention made Hillman both grateful — and upset.
“I appreciate what the officer did, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I wish there were more people like him in the world.”
But he said he didn’t remember Foster taking the photo.
“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.”
Hillman told the reporter he came to New York about a decade ago and had been on the streets most of that time.
He said he moves around Manhattan and on Sunday he was making his way from the Upper West Side to Times Square. He was panhandling and carried a cup with a few coins inside.
On Nov. 14, DePrimo, 25, was putting the socks and boots on the homeless Hillman’s swollen and blistered feet
when the scene was captured by Jennifer Foster, a tourist from Arizona, using her cellphone camera.
She posted the photo of DePrimo crouching down near the then-unidentified man on Facebook. Hillman's family recognized him and shed light on his background.
The picture was soon shared extensively by others and found its way to the NYPD Facebook page, where it received hundreds of thousands of likes and shares.
DePrimo was celebrated on front pages and morning talk shows, the NYPD came away with a burnished image, and millions got a smile from a nice story.
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