Tuesday, December 04, 2012

You Mean The Barefoot, Homeless Dude Is. . .NOT. . .Homeless?!

The above photo of New York City police officer Larry DePrimo performing an act of kindness to a homeless man made the rounds last week.
The act of kindness Mr. DePrimo did was to, out of his own pocket mind you, go to the nearest open shoe store, a Sketcher's, spend at least $75 and buy the barefoot, homeless man a pair of boots so he did not have to have another night of cold feet.
A very nice, heartfelt gesture indeed.
On the surface, it is an act of kindness that many people do not and would not do for such an individual.
But, as the late great Paul Harvey would say, there is the rest of the story.
It turns out that homeless dude, well he is not quite really homeless.
According to this article in the New York Daily News, homeless, shoeless dude is named Jeffrey Hillman. And what's more, he actually has a publicly subsidized apartment in The Bronx borough of New York City.
Now before you scream, "Oh no! Not another homeless-bashing post here!" I am sorry to disappoint you.
This is not a typical case even with all the new reportage.
Clearly, Mr. Tillman has some kind of mental problem. What it is we do not know. But why would someone take assistance in the form of Section 8 housing vouchers, social security disability, and veterans benefits for housing and roam the streets and panhandle? And, rarely if ever use said apartment for shelter?
Why would Mr. Tillman refuse assistance from family members from his hometown of Nazareth, Pennsylvania? That includes his two children.
Again, this line in the article seems to sum it up:

"He needs help beyond mere handouts."

Yes, but because he refuses, he can continue to live his bleak, meager existence. Yet his having housing that he rarely uses because he is out on the streets panhandling and wandering is selfish because a person that can and wants that apartment does not.
What Mr. Tillman needs is to be committed in a mental facility that can address what his mental state actually is and he could be put on medication that will, hopefully, help him find his way back.
I know, the law seems to side with Mr. Tillman and his vagabond existence. And that if he shows any fleeting moment of supposed sanity, he can avoid the above solution.
This is not freedom.
This is someone that is a prisoner to something that most of us can not imagine. Because most people can not and would not want to live the way that Mr. Tillman is currently living. Something is wrong with his mind. And he is not getting help because he is a prisoner of a system that is at best indifferent and a society that ignores the homeless problem because it really does not affect them.
Now Mr. DePrimo, he did nothing wrong. He saw a human being in a bad way and thought that he could do a little something to help. Mr. Tillman seemed to be appreciative. But it is what he said later that is well, what do you make of this:

"After the story of DePrimo's generosity went viral, Hillman turned up again still on the streets and still shoeless. He told a reporter he hid the boots that set DePrimo back $75 so they wouldn't be stolen."

Sooo, if Mr. Tillman would be back at his apartment, they would NOT be stolen.
But again, we who think this way are thinking logically. A person with mental illness will NOT think logically.
And that is what is wrong with this story.
That a homeless, barefoot man who does not have to be homeless is acting as such. That a man with clear mental problems is basically swept under the rug because he refuses the help.
Somewhere there has to be some middle ground that eventually leads to helping Mr. Tillman. That would be the best outcome of this story.

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