Skip to main content

Barefoot 'homeless' man from viral NYPD photo has apartment, city agency says

By Khara Lewin, CNN
December 6, 2012 -- Updated 0128 GMT (0928 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A photo of a police officer aiding a barefoot, presumably homeless man went viral
  • A tourist's photo captured the officer helping the barefoot man with a new pair of boots
  • The officer bought the boots for the man
  • The city agency for the homeless says the man has an apartment in the Bronx

New York (CNN) -- The barefoot, apparently homeless man depicted in a widely publicized photo of a New York police officer offering him a pair of boots is not really homeless, according to the head of a city agency.

On the frigid night of November 14, police officer Lawrence DePrimo, a two-year veteran of the NYPD, was on patrol in Times Square when he came across a man in bare feet with "blisters ... about the size of my hands."

"My heart went out to this man," DePrimo told CNN. "I just went toward him and asked him if he wanted a pair of socks."

Opinion: Shoes a start, but homeless need far more

DePrimo then headed to a nearby shoe store and -- after asking the man his size -- bought winter boots and helped the man put them on his feet.

Unbeknownst to DePrimo, Jennifer Foster, a tourist from Florence, Arizona, had been close by and captured the moment of DePrimo helping the man. The NYPD posted the picture to its Facebook page, where it has garnered hundreds of thousands of comments.

Since then, the barefoot man, once thought to be homeless, has been identified by the New York Times as Jeffrey Hillman, 54. That name was confirmed to CNN by Hillman's older brother, Kirk.

"Seeing him on the street, the way I saw, that was a shock at that particular time with no shoes and in the cold," Kirk Hillman, 62 of Allentown, Pennsylvania, said, recalling the first time he saw the photo that went viral on the Internet. "My brother has been homeless for a while now, he's been on the street for many, many years of his life."

But according to the city, Jeffrey Hillman has housing -- an apartment in the Bronx.

Seth Diamond, commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services, says that Jeffrey Hillman has been on the city's radar for years. "He has housing and that's one of the most important elements for a stable lifestyle," Diamond told CNN.

Read more: 'I knew I had to help,' cop says

Jeffrey Hillman, who served in the military, is eligible for support through the federal Housing and Urban Development's Veterans Affairs Support Housing program, Diamond said.

Thanks to that program, Jeffrey Hillman has a Bronx apartment that has been paid for outright, Diamond said, emphasizing there was no need for the man to "panhandle on the streets to pay rent." Diamond would not give any details about Jeffrey Hillman's use of the apartment.

CNN was unable to locate Jeffrey Hillman. But Diamond described the situation as being one that his agency deals with regularly with the city's homeless population: "At times, he's receptive and at times he's more restive, and that is not atypical."

And Diamond said he remains steadfast and vigilant in this case, as in others. "Mr. Hillman needs to be living a better and healthier life. We have incredibly dedicated people who do not take no for an answer," Diamond says, "We just have to keep at it."

Read more: Dear New York, what's up with the niceness?

CNN's Mary Snow contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
February 8, 2013 -- Updated 0718 GMT (1518 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
ADVERTISEMENT