Date: May 8, 2023
The National Coalition for the Homeless denounces the violence perpetrated against Jordan Neely. In death, Mr. Neely has brought to our collective consciousness acknowledgment of how broken our economy is, and how damaging criminalization of poverty and homelessness can be.
After shouting that he was hungry and thirsty, Jordan Neely, a young unhoused man, was restrained by a U.S. Marine on a Manhattan subway train. He died of compression of the neck during the altercation. Neely, who was a Michael Jackson impersonator, suffered from mental illness following the death of his mother according to news outlets. Neely did not deserve such a brutal death.
Mr. Neely’s story highlights the failures of our systems to respond to, and provide for, basic human needs. From foster care to health care and housing, system after system failed to provide the support Neely needed.
For those who have not been forced into homelessness, you would be amazed at how quickly you lose your humanity. It can be incredibly hard to find compassion from the places you would most expect it – family and friends or social services and government agencies that are supposed to help.
Taking this a step further, NY City officials, and communities across the country respond to the need for housing with disdain, and often law enforcement.
“The killing of Jordan Neely is the direct result of the dehumanization of people experiencing homelessness and mental health issues,” states Donald Whitehead, Executive Director of the National Coalition. “Criminalization policies that turn the general public into street level judges, jury, and executioner have tragic consequences.”
“Jordan Neely’s heart should still be beating. Systemic oppression and the humanitarian crisis of poverty and homelessness continues to unjustly unleash trauma and violence, taking precious lives each day. As we mourn the loss of Jordan Neely, let us commit and recommit ourselves ourselves to dismantling racism, classism, ableism, sexism, heterosexism, and other deeply embedded isms. We must awaken empathy, organize, mobilize, and genuinely advance housing justice, racial justice, and intersectional equity,” urges Dr. Shankar-Brown.
Black Lives Matter. None of us are home until all of us are home.
Donald Whitehead, Executive Director of NCH | Dwhitehead@nationalhomeless.org