(May 5, 2023, Washington, DC) – The National Homelessness Law Center is outraged over the strangulation and murder of Jordan Neely Monday, May 1, 2023. The Law Center condemns the NYPD, Mayor Eric Adams, and Governor Kathy Hochul for their failure to hold Jordan’s vigilante killer responsible, and for their subsequent efforts to shield his murderer and smear a murder victim. But these government officials’ statements and actions are symptomatic of the broader problem that led to this tragedy—a toxic cultural obsession with anti-Blackness and dehumanization of the poor.
As the national legal group dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness, we seek to elevate a reality already deeply understood by unhoused communities and their allies: that racialized, state-sanctioned brutality occurs with disproportionate force and frequency against both the Black and the unsheltered communities. Moreover, it is beyond dispute that marginalized people of color continue to be significantly overrepresented among the unhoused. Accordingly, it is the Law Center’s responsibility to highlight how these factors intersect primarily to encourage fear of and violence against poor Black New Yorkers like Jordan Neely.
It is no coincidence that Jordan was murdered on the subway, because the NYC subway system has long been the target of dehumanizing campaigns that condition the public to view unhoused Black men as disposable. The subway is currently the subject of a targeted campaign by both Mayor Adams and Gov. Hochul to remove poor, unhoused, and mentally ill people from public view. New York’s top brass accomplished this goal by inserting thousands of militarized police into the subways for the purpose of disappearing those deemed ‘undesirable,’ and framing the policy as a public safety project to protect New Yorkers from the “mentally ill” and unhoused individuals whom our elected leaders inaccurately claim, “present a danger to themselves and others.”
Adams’ and Hochul’s fear mongering, amplified throughout media ecosystems, proliferates and promotes fatal vigilantism. The murder of Jordan Neely was the predictable and inevitable result. When we generate an ethos of dehumanization, it compounds existing and deeply embedded racist ideologies. It is horrifically unsurprising to learn that a white man lynched a poor Black man in broad daylight in New York City, and the murderer not only evaded accountability, but was affirmatively protected by our elected leaders.
Accordingly, the Law Center calls on all levels of government to end the criminalization of homelessness, all forms of media to stop vilifying the most vulnerable among us, and for all of us to cease utilizing police forces to address what is ultimately a failure of public policy – the lack of housing and health care.
LAWS CRIMINALIZING HOMELESSNESS LEAD TO VIOLENCE AGAINST UNHOUSED PEOPLE. WE MUST INSTEAD PROMOTE VIABLE, LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS, SUCH AS AFFORDABLE, ADEQUATE, AND DIGNIFIED HOUSING FIRST, FOR ALL.
The Law Center’s Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign seeks to bring attention to, and ultimately end, the criminalization of homelessness. Learn more at www.housingnothandcuffs.org.
The National Homelessness Law Center is a national organization dedicated to using the power of the law to prevent and end homelessness. With the support of a large network of pro bono lawyers, we address the immediate and long-term needs of people who are homeless or at risk through outreach and training, advocacy, impact litigation, and public education.