Officials: "Homeless" NYC man helped by officer has apartment in Bronx

Jeffery Hillman has family in LV; Say he's struggling for past 30 years

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Published: Dec 04 2012 07:00:00 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 05 2012 06:37:57 AM EST

It's the photo that's been seen around the world: a New York City cop buying boots for a homeless man with no shoes. Tuesday, we learned that man actually has a home, but chooses to spend much of his time on the streets.

For his brother, who lives in the Lehigh Valley, the news is both a relief and troubling.

At first, Kirk Hillman said he didn't even recognize his brother in the photo.

"I was surprised that it was him," he said.

Then again, Jeffrey Hillman -- the man in the photo -- has had a troubled life.

"My brother has had a life where he's been in and out of shelters," he said. "He has been on the streets at times."

Tuesday, New York's Department of Homeless Services revealed that Jeffrey -- the focus of so much media attention -- actually has an apartment in the Bronx, paid for with a mix of Section 8 vouchers and veterans' benefits.

"If he does, then that's good," said Kirk Hillman, who works for Easton's Shiloh Baptist Church and lives in Northampton Co.

And yet, city agencies said Jeffrey chooses to live on the street. Hillman said his brother has turned down help for years, even from relatives.

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink," he said.

How did Jeffrey Hillman end up like this? Photos obtained by the Daily News show a popular teenager and talented ball player, growing up in New Jersey in the early 1970s.

"Just a normal, normal teenager growing up," Kirk recalled.

But after a stint in the Army, Jeffrey Hillman had two children, but endured a painful divorce. His brother estimated he's been in-and-out of the streets for some 30 years now. His children are grown.

"My brother will call us; he will," said Kirk. "Eventually he will, and then, we will be able to get the inside story."

According to Kirk Hillman, Jeffrey hasn't contacted his family in a year, which he said, is fairly typical.