Homeless man given shoes by New York policeman found barefoot again on Broadway
After police officer Lawrence DePrimo knelt beside a barefoot man on a bitterly cold night in New York’s Times Square, giving him a pair of boots, a photograph of his act of goodwill took on a life of its own.
It became a symbol for a million acts of kindness that go unnoticed daily and a reminder that even in this tough, often anonymous city, people can still look out for one another.
Mr DePrimo was celebrated on front pages and talk shows, and the police department emerged with a burnished image. But what of the shoeless man? For days his bare blistered feet were well known. Yet details on him proved elusive.
His name is Jeffrey Hillman (54) and on Sunday night he was once again wondering the streets shoeless.
The $100 (€76.50) pair of boots Mr DePrimo had bought for him for a little more than $75 with the manager’s discount were nowhere to be seen.
“Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” said Mr Hillman on Broadway. “I could lose my life.”
He was by turns aggrieved, grateful and taken aback by 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.” He did not recall the photograph being taken, but remembered well the gift from Mr DePrimo.
“I appreciate what the officer did, don’t get me wrong,” he said. Mr Hillman added that he was from South Plainfield, New Jersey. He said he joined the army in 1978 and served as a “food service specialist” in the United States and Germany.
He has two children – Nikita (22) and Jeffrey (24) – but has had little contact with them since a visit three years ago.
He was reluctant to talk about how he ended up on the streets. He shook his head and said: “I don’t know.”
Since Mr Hillman’s bare feet became famous, other people reported seeing him without shoes – one even after Mr DePrimo’s gift – and one woman said she had bought him a pair of shoes a year ago.
Whatever the case, he seemed accustomed to walking the footpath shoeless.– (Reuters)