The homeless man given a pair of boots by a kind NYPD officer last month apparently is not homeless after all. The boots are also missing already.
According to the N.Y. Daily News, Jeffrey Hillman, 54, has a Bronx apartment paid for via a combination of rent vouchers, Social Security, and VA benefits.
It's a sad and somewhat puzzling follow-up to a story that captured millions of hearts.
Hillman and police officer Lawrence DePrimo became Internet sensations after a tourist snapped a photo of DePrimo giving the homeless man a pair of boots.
The photo went viral and warmed thousands of hearts, but yesterday, Hillman was spotted around New York, again barefoot. They are "hidden," he confessed.
"They are worth a lot of money. I could lose my life," he told the N.Y. Times.
The Daily News reports that various city organizations have attempted to help Hillman, to no avail, as "[Hillman] has a history of turning down services."
The man's brother, Kirk Hillman, told the Daily News that he hasn't heard from Jeffrey since January. Kirk, too, said Jeffrey has refused overtures of help.
"We love our brother very much," Kirk Hillman told the newspaper.
"Our door is always open, but this is a lifestyle he's chosen."
While he won't say where they are or why they could endanger him, Jeffrey Hillman told the Times that he is grateful for the boots from Officer DePrimo:
"I want to thank everyone that got onto this thing. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. It meant a lot to me. And to the officer, first and foremost."