The Bowery Mission in Lower Manhattan recently responded with a passionate statement that called for “compassion instead of judgement and violence” toward the city’s homeless following the death of Jordan Neely on the subway. Neely, a homeless man, died after being placed in a chokehold by Daniel Penny on May 1 following an altercation with passengers, according to news reports and eyewitness accounts. Penny, 24, a former US Marine, has not been charged.
“We at The Bowery Mission are heartbroken by the killing of Jordan Neely. Incidents like this show the dire need for more mental health awareness and training, so that all New Yorkers are equipped to respond to their neighbors in crisis with understanding, sensitivity, and compassion,” said James Winans, President and CEO, Bowery Mission.
Winans noted a recent decline in empathy for people experiencing homelessness and mental health challenges.
“The overwhelming majority of people experiencing severe mental health crises on our streets are not aggressive. In fact, they are more vulnerable to violence against them,” he said. “Whenever we see someone in distress, we must always consider the impact trauma may have had on their ability to regulate emotions and behaviors. This neighbor is worthy of our compassion, not judgment, and certainly not violence.”
Winans hopes the death of Jordan Neely would be a wakeup call for New Yorkers to see humanity in our neighbors and to advocate for those who live on the margins of our city.
“New Yorkers often see people in very vulnerable circumstances and conditions of mental well-being, yet history also tells us that grave mistakes can be made if action is taken without proper assessment, dignity, and advocacy around the vulnerable individual,” he said.
“New Yorkers must come together to devote more resources not only to helping people in distress, but also spread awareness on mental health and homelessness. We critically need expanded outreach by mental health professionals, who have the ability to assess situations and provide appropriate care for individuals in need.”