On Monday, May 1st, Jordan Neely stepped onto the Northbound F Line. He began telling passengers that he was hungry, thirsty, and had no place to safely sleep at night. Passengers ignored him. In frustration, he started shouting and threw his jacket on the floor. Jordan Neely was tackled to the ground by another rider. He was held in a chokehold for nearly 15 minutes–twice as long as Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck. Some passengers looked on. Others cheered. Some offered praise and encouragement to the man who killed him.
May is Mental Health Awareness month. Jordan Neely’s murder is a heartbreaking reminder that our unhoused neighbors don’t have safe outlets or secluded spaces to vent their frustrations. They have no choice but to express their grief in public. We have no choice but to stand witness to their suffering. We don’t know if Jordan Neely was experiencing a mental health crisis. But, demanding to be seen as a human worthy of help should not be a crime punishable by death. Nor should experiencing a mental health crisis in a country where many don’t have housing or healthcare. Jordan Neely should have had access to the resources he needed. Jordan Neely should still be alive.
Some officials and media outlets continue to share the narrative that people experiencing homelessness are inherently dangerous; that Black men expressing anger are a threat. We continue to see people who are most at-risk in our communities be contained by force and killed. It’s easier to blame an individual like Jordan instead of admitting our system is failing the most vulnerable in our community.
Much like Jordan Neely, unhoused people in Austin face a failed system. They face inequalities that continue making our city unaffordable. They are failed by a lack of support and funding for programs that work. They are failed if we decide to do nothing.
As a society that values equality, we should strive to ensure that all members have access to the services they need. This starts at the local level. Austin is an innovative, passionate community that believes in its people. Together we can find new and conscientious solutions for the various needs of our diverse population, enhancing life for all of us.
Family Eldercare passionately believes that people experiencing homelessness, mental illness, economic injustice, and food insecurity deserve to be met with dignity and trauma-informed care. We are committed in our fight to help people obtain affordable housing, gain access to food and water, and to provide our clients with compassionate and intentional mental health services. We will continue to advocate and amplify the voices of those who are most marginalized in our community, and fight for a more livable, inclusive Central Texas.