06/01/2014 06:06 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 08:17 GMT

Homeless Man Nick Simmons, Pictured In Newspaper, Is Reunited With Family

The picture of a homeless man struggling to warm himself on a steam grate in deep freeze Washington DC was the perfect image for AP photographer Jacquelyn Martin, to capture the plight of those left out in the cold.

But a picture told more than a thousand words. It reunited a family.

A family from upstate New York since New Year's Day, recognised the unshaven man in the tattered blue hoodie as their son, after a friend pointed out the image in USA Today.

Nick Simmons, 20, left behind his wallet, mobile phone and all his possessions when he left his home in Greece, NY five days ago.

Nicholas Simmons, 20, warms himself on a steam grate with three homeless men by the Federal Trade Commission

Martin told AP that she had been assigned to the White House, but had little to cover due to President Obama's Hawaii holiday, so shot some pictures of the freezing weather.

“It struck me how young he was,” Martin said of Simmons. “I introduced myself and shook his hand. He said his name was Nick.”


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She received a message about the man's identity via Twitter from USA Today, when the family contacted the paper.

Simmons was found by police and taken to hospital, as his father and brother drove for hours to be by his side.

Writing on a Facebook group set up to find Simmons, mother Michelle Simmons said: “Nick is alive but obviously not well. We are going to get him home and safe. ... I am beyond able to put into words how I am feeling.

"It could have been months before we had a lead on his whereabouts.

"My baby looks so lost and I will be spending the rest of my life making him well."