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OPINION

If Jordan Neely Had Been In A Workhouse, He’d Still Be Alive

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

The story of Jordan Neely, the “unhoused” habitually-arrested vagrant wanted on an active felony warrant who died after being restrained by subway passengers for making violent threats, certainly has all the volatile factors to make it a major media story - self-defense, race, public safety, even a few unhinged AOC weigh-ins. Already, the left’s penchant for making martyrs and heroes out of scumbags has them well on their way to making this guy the next George Floyd.

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But arguably the most important of all the issues related to this situation - homelessness - continues to stare society right in the face. If you’ve been to any major city lately, especially Democrat-run ones, you know that it’s nearly impossible to walk a city block without tripping over some drug-addled zombie using the sidewalk as their personal bedroom, storage unit, and bathroom (hint: if you see ‘water’ draining and it hasn’t rained in a bit, it’s, uh, probably best to avoid stepping in it). And beyond the petty unpleasant encounters and accostings that happen to countless ordinary working people just trying to go about their business every day, the crime, from theft to outright murder, has truly gotten out of hand.

Over the past several decades, cities have tried to deal with this problem in various ways, from voluntary drug and alcohol programs to free food and housing, all to no avail. Not only has the homeless population not gone away, it has increased in numbers, seemingly attracted to the cities with the most handouts and the most lenient vagrancy and loitering laws. I believe none of the ‘modern’ approaches to homelessness have worked because they ignore human nature and are unwilling to use the force needed to effect real, radical change. 

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However, enacting some form of enforcing the following four places habitually homeless people SHOULD be - instead of the streets - would be a huge step in the right direction:

Jail / Prison

First of all, people who break the law should be punished, and those who habitually show themselves to be menaces to society should be locked up. If there are no significant consequences for theft, violence, and other crimes that prey on law-abiding members of society, society itself falls apart. If we don’t start here, nothing else works. But beyond the worst, laws against vagrancy and loitering should be enacted and enforced with real jail time. Yes, viable, alternative options should be provided for homeless people (see below), but if they refuse, they should be arrested and jailed. Sleeping on the sidewalk shouldn’t be allowed. Full stop. You get what you allow.

Mental Asylum

It was none other than Ronald Reagan who by and large ended the practice of institutionalizing mentally ill people against their will, and on the surface it’s easy to understand the logic. Obviously, nobody wants the government to have the power to round up people willy-nilly by simply being able to arbitrarily define them as ‘mentally ill.’ But, on the other hand, should habitual vagrants with obvious mental disorders and a propensity for violence be allowed to be ticking time bombs right in the middle of crowded spaces? Yes, this should be considered carefully and legal safeguards should be put into place, but tossing the baby out with the bathwater by getting rid of involuntary commitment entirely was clearly not the answer. Let’s bring it back.

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Rehab Facility

Since we know drug and alcohol abuse are huge factors driving the homelessness epidemic, society would be remiss not to offer free rehabilitation as an option. Many of these facilities already exist and are free, but taxpayers have a vested interest in creating many more, especially in large population centers. And while you can’t force rehab on someone who is unwilling, you can ‘encourage’ it by enforcing the rest of the items in this column, thus showing people that simply living on the street isn’t going to be an option for them. You can go to rehab or you can go to jail. Your choice.

Workhouse

I know ‘workhouse’ is a loaded term. Bring it up and people will inevitably accuse you of wanting to go back to Dickensian England. Except, it wasn’t so much the concept itself that was bad, but rather the conditions, inevitable for any group setting in those times. A properly established modern ‘workhouse’ system would be locally run and state regulated, humane, and provide job training for needed skills in the geographic vicinity as well as a clean place to live and a steady paycheck to save for future housing. To those in need of a helping hand and not just a handout, what’s not to like?

Currently, society doesn’t have the stomach to effect the changes needed to radically deal with the homeless problem. Until it does, nothing will ever change. To those who would accuse me of a lack of compassion for even bringing these things up, consider this: If Jordan Neely had been in any of the above four places instead of being allowed to repeatedly harass and violently threaten people on a subway train, he would be alive today.

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