I saw this story making the rounds on the Book of Faces this past weekend, and was struck by the debates it caused…………mostly because the debate seemed to primarily focus on the good cops/bad cops angle (which I am not going to touch right now) and totally ignore the “we have a terrible explosion of homeless people in this country” problem. No one seemed to give two shits about the actual homeless person in this story,, they saw him simply as a means to either glorify or demonize police officers. My personal reaction was “damn, that cop is a good guy for doing that. ……..I wonder where that poor guy and his boots are going to be sleeping tonight….in a shelter, or on the street?”. I figured the man would disappear, and no one would hear from him again:
Jennifer Foster of Florence, AZ was visiting Times Square with her husband Nov. 14 when they saw a shoeless man asking for change. She writes, “Right when I was about to approach, one of your officers came up behind him. The officer said, ‘I have these size 12 boots for you, they are all-weather. Let’s put them on and take care of you.’ The officer squatted down on the ground and proceeded to put socks and the new boots on this man. The officer expected NOTHING in return and did not know I was watching*. I have been in law enforcement for 17 years. I was never so impressed in my life. I did not get the officer’s name. It is important, I think, for all of us to remember the real reason we are in this line of work. The reminder this officer gave to our profession in his presentation of human kindness has not been lost on myself or any of the Arizona law enforcement officials with whom this story has been shared.”
Our thanks to the Fosters for their attention and appreciation, and especially to this officer, who remains anonymous.
But I was wrong.
Making the rounds today on the Book of Faces is a link to The Week, which summarizes a more in-depth New York Times article about Jefferey Hillman, the homeless man Officer Larry DePrimo purchased the $100 boots for.
Going strictly by the link for the Week article without actually reading it, as a large portion of FB users are wont to do,
one gets the impression that “homeless douchebag” is A) mentally unstable and thinks it’s better to have freezing feet than scuff up expensive shoes, and B) is probably planning to sell those shoes for drugs, booze, or some other nefarious activity. For the ones that actually DO click the link for the Week’s article, they will still likely come away with the impression that the homeless man is indeed a sketchy, ungrateful douche.
Via The Week:
Update: Shortly after this photo went viral, reports began trickling in that the homeless man in the picture had been seen wandering the New York City streets barefoot once again. According to The New York Times, the man’s name is Jeffrey Hillman, and he’s stashed away the $100 boots in a safe place. “Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” he told the newspaper. Hillman expressed gratitude for DePrimo’s generosity, but is frustrated that the photo was shared so widely without his permission. “What do I get?” he asked. “This went around the world, and I want a piece of the pie.”
This story was originally published on Nov. 29 and updated on Dec. 3.
Shorter Homeless Guy, according to The Week:
“Wah, wah,I’m “famous”, so somebody should pony up some cash or some hookers or something!”
Shorter people on the Book of Faces:
“What an ungrateful piece of shit! He MUST be a liberal!”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a little cray-cray to hide a perfectly good pair of boots and walk the streets of New York BAREFOOT in the winter. But I also think that a homeless guy in New York city wearing decent-looking shoes has a strong chance of getting shoe-jacked by a more desperate homeless guy, too.Walk around in $100 shoes and you might as well mark a target on your back and never sleep…………..SOMEBODY will jack you up for those bad boys, whether it is for warm, un-scarred feet or for the cash value.
And reading deeper, in the New York Times article Hillman expresses that fear.
“Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” Mr. Hillman said in an interview on Broadway in the 70s. “I could lose my life.” ~snip~ “I appreciate what the officer did, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I wish there were more people like him in the world.”
Hillman is an Army vet and a father of two . He did not give much of his back story to the person interviewing him – how he became homeless was not revealed. but he did say that he came to he city about a decade ago and has been on the streets for most of that time.
Ten years on the streets will teach you what kind of fashion statement you can safely make. I’m betting Mr. Hillman has learned that new, expensive boots is not among them.
I’m also betting that most of the Book-Facers I have seen making disparaging comments are so busy raging about the War on Christmas and dirty, ungrateful, devil-loving liberals that they have completely forgotten about that whole “true spirit of Christmas” thing everybody preaches about. I mean, I’m sure that if He were right here among us right now, the Baby Jesus would be kicked back in His manger saying “Pfffft, FUCK that non tax-paying douche……..warm feet, healthcare, and compassion are only for the 53%ers! Now go do My work and order some Papa John’s and buy a gun!”…………………… RIGHT???
For every Jeffery Hillman who gets a brief spotlight, how many others are passed by on the street, ignored because they offend our eyes and our sense of smell, and more importantly, remind us of how superficial most of our daily problems really are?
Goddammit, my cable bill is just ridiculous!
I can’t believe my hairdresser stood me up AGAIN!
There was too much foam on that half-caff mocha bullshit I ordered at Ridonkulously Overpriced Chain Coffee House today!
My car is not as new as I’d like it to be.
I really want an iPad.
Wow, my sister-in-laws new house is NICE.
You feel (IF you’re not a jackass) pretty shitty thinking that kin of trivial shit when you walk by someone who lives ON THE STREET – better to do all you can to not notice. Better to debate about the corruptness of America’s police forces than to spend any time thinking about why it is the supposed richest, most advanced country in the world shrugs its collective shoulders at the plight of the people there who live an almost third-world existence and bury their noses in the latest “i” gadget instead.
And the Jefferey Hillman’s of the nation blend back into the pavement until they are needed for our next round of viral warm-fuzzy posts , where we can “sympathize” with the homeless without actually having to see, smell, or HELP them.