UK & World News

  • 5 December 2012, 12:43

New York Barefoot Homeless Man 'Not Homeless'

The barefoot homeless man, whose gift of a new pair of boots from a New York cop turned into a web phenomenon, may not be homeless after all.

Jeffery Hillman has been living for over a year in an apartment in the Bronx according to the New York Daily News - with his rent paid by social security and veterans benefits.

But despite this, the 54-year-old has continued to be spotted shoeless around Manhattan since the cold November night when Officer Larry DePrimo bought him the $100 shoes, in the widely-lauded random act of kindness.

"Outreach teams from the Department of Homeless Services continue to attempt to work with him, but he has a history of turning down services," Barbara Brancaccio, a spokeswoman for the New York City agency, told the newspaper.

After the image was taken by a tourist from Arizona and posted on the NYPD Facebook page, more details about the then-anonymous vagrant emerged.

Mr Hillman was in the army and has two adult children.

He has family and old friends in New Jersey and Pennsylvania who are shocked by his plight, but also keen to help him.

"Jeffrey has his own life, and he has chosen that life, but he knows that our hearts and home are always open to him," his niece Alegra Hall told the New York Post.

Mr Hillman lived in city transitional housing sites called Safe Havens from 2009 until 2011, before securing his current apartment through a Department of Veterans Affairs programme, the Daily News said.

The story behind the mobile phone image may not be quite the fairytale many wanted to believe.

While New Yorkers still applaud the young policeman's gesture, opinion is sharply divided over whether Mr Hillman deserves sympathy or criticism.

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