Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Treatment Advocacy Center addresses a critical need for basic survival that is far too often overlooked. Treatment.

What happened to Jeffrey Hillman’s Boots?

(Dec. 4, 2012) In a random act of kindness, a police officer charitably bought boots for Jeffrey Hillman, a barefoot man living on the streets of New York City. The story of generosity went viral, and the random act of kindness has been celebrated in print and photos.
jeffreyhillmanYet last Sunday, Hillman, 54, was spotted wandering the streets with bare feet. Hillman said “he hid the boots” that were a gift from the police officer “so they wouldn’t be stolen” (“Barefoot homeless man immortalized in photo isn't actually homeless,” NY Daily News, Dec. 3).
What’s more, Hillman isn’t even homeless. He has an apartment in the Bronx paid for through a combination of federal and disability benefits.
Nonetheless, despite the housing services available to him and the police officer’s generosity, Hillman continues to walk barefoot and live on the streets of NYC.
“Outreach teams from the Department of Homeless Services continue to attempt to work with him but he has a history of turning down services,” said Barbara Brancaccio, a spokesperson for the agency.
Nobody has said outright that Hillman is mentally ill. But given that one-third of the estimated 744,000 homeless people nationwide suffer from untreated mental illness and that he is going barefoot in the cold when he has shoes and living on the streets when he has housing, he certainly fits the profile on someone with psychiatric disease that renders him unable to make self-interested choices.
If so, Hillman needs help beyond handouts and homeless services. If we really want to get serious about helping, we need to recognize that many of the homeless need psychiatric treatment to escape the consequences of untreated mental illness.  
The Treatment Advocacy Center is dedicated to reducing the consequences by advocating for the reform and implementation of laws that make treatment possible for those too ill to seek it themselves. To support our efforts, please give today.
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