Homeless Man Barefoot Again After NYPD Officer's Gift of Shoes

Rant 27

NYPD Officer DePrimo Homeless manWhen a big-hearted NYPD officer bought a pair of shoes for a homeless man in Times Square recently, he became an Internet hero. But Officer Larry DePrimo's incredible gift wasn't the best thing that's ever happened to the man we know now is Jeffrey Hillman, a former New Jersey resident. The homeless man is already back to being barefoot.

It's a fact that is already drawing the Internet's ire. The grumblings of "ungrateful" and backlash against the homeless community has begun. But let's just hold on to our righteous indignation for a moment, shall we? Jeffrey Hillman lives on the streets. He understands them much better than we do. And hiding a pair of $100 Sketchers is the right move here.

As Hillman told The New York Times when they tracked him down:

Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money. I could lose my life.

Unfortunately, Hillman is probably right. A ragged pair of hand-me-downs wouldn't have been quite as nice from a happy holiday story perspective, but they certainly would have kept safe Hillman from the target that would be on his back if he wandered the streets at night in a pair of fancy new boots.

This isn't to say that Officer DePrimo was wrong. His act of generosity stands.

But everywhere today I've noted that other media picking up the New York Times interview with the now infamous homeless man have chosen to gloss over the fear Hillman has had to live with since his run-in with Officer DePrimo. They've reported instead that the homeless man complained that his image was used around the web without his permission, that he would rather have a "piece of pie."

From our comfortable homes and offices, it's easy to roll your eyes and be angry that a man given such a wonderful gift could "throw it away." Most of us can't imagine being mugged for a pair of nice shoes, but this is the reality of life on the streets. We are lucky in that sense. We are blessed.

But put yourself in Jeffrey Hillman's shoes, literally, and the view is different, isn't it?

He isn't ungrateful. He's a homeless man just trying to stay alive in a world where most people aren't as big-hearted as Officer Larry DePrimo.

When you heard the homeless man in this story was barefoot, what was your initial reaction?


Image via NYPD Facebook

charity, human rights


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Elizabeth Ahmad

I knew why he was barefoot the moment I saw the headline.  I live on LI near NYC.  People are routinely beaten or killed for their shoes, or other valuables, either on the streets or in a shelter.

dirti... dirtiekittie

how absolutely terrible, i don't know who i'd feel worse for - the homeless guy who fears for his life over shoes, or the young cop who may take away the wrong impression because everyone jumped on the whole 'want a piece of the pie' thing. personally i'm a little sad that it couldn't have just been a good deed that stands on its own merit, but there's always got to be some follow up, some angle.. sigh. 

divam... divamomtjcj

poor guy cant even wear shoes smh as for the cop please keep up the good deeds we need more people like u

Todd Vrancic

I actually thought he might have sold them for food.  Hard to think long-term when you haven't eaten in a while.  So I totally get why he would rather have had the "piece of pie."

tbruc... tbrucemom

The police officer would have been better off buying an inexpensive pair of shoes, but his kindness is still inspiring. However, the homeless guy still isn't wearing shoes. I do believe there are people that would harm him to have them, but couldn't he wear them and either hope for the best or give them up if he absolutely had to. I also think that maybe he just sold them. I don't think he's ungrateful, it's just a different way of life.

amira... amirahsmommy11

The guy is an Mycenae cop I'm sure he understands why the man isn't wearing them...I'm in Ny and its sad that he cant even wear those shoes but another homeless person would kill him in his sleep for those shoes....its really nice to see a cop openly that nice..you usually never see that...

Pagan... PaganMommy04

My initial thought was "ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!?!"   Honestly, I at first thought that he'd sold them to get some booze, which is pretty damn awful of me  :-(    And believe me, I felt uber guilty when I saw why he's hiding the shoes and it's something that I can completely understand.  And the fact that people so easily dismiss his fears about being mugged or killed for the shoes only to paint him up as some kind of ingrate massively pisses me off!  

Christopher Koulouris

Ultimately one has to wonder if Mr Hillman sold his shoes to acquire means to sustain his situation (and unfortunately that does include possibly narcotics and or alcohol) or whether he’s deep in the throes of mental illness that has debilitated his ability to see that if he is to indeed get ahead in life he will indeed need to preserve himself, and that does mean wearing shoes.

One has to also wonder to what degree the system is culpable that homelessness is such a prevalent situation in a wealthy country like America....?


Jaime Swift Sundin

Yes cause every freaking homeless person does drugs or drinks booze, for the love of GOD get off the fucking high horse.  Those people on the streets most likely faught for your freedoms and are disabled vets who have no where else to go.  Please for the love of all that is holy educate your selves on the homeless and their situations.  Do you think these people love being on the streets in the cold crappy weather with nothing to eat???  Of course not.  And what about the kids on the streets does any one care about them???  Instread of pointing fingers and finding fault with these people lets find the good in them and lift them up and show them that they are worth something.  That way they find faith in themselves and know that they can make their lives better.

Todd Vrancic

Please do not think I am judging him for thinking he might have sold the shoes for food, I am not judging him, I am judging society.

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