Jordan Neely, a homeless man who died after being choked on the subway, was on a list maintained by the Department of Homeless Services in New York City of those in dire need of assistance, according to reports. The list, known as the “Top 50,” is an internal database used to keep track of individuals who frequently visit and exit homeless shelters and mental health treatment facilities. The government and nonprofit service providers highlight instances that require careful attention to track individuals who urgently need assistance.
Neely, a former street performer, was on the list, and had been sent to the hospital on multiple occasions. The effectiveness of the list in halting the cycle of treatment, arrest, and homelessness is debatable. Neely had a long history of mental illness that was never properly handled, and he eventually fell into a profound melancholy after his stepfather brutally killed his mother in 2007. He had numerous run-ins with the law, and at least one lengthy jail sentence resulted from his repeated acts of random violence.
The New York Times and CNN were the first to disclose that Neely was on the list, and they both said that he had been sent to the hospital on multiple occasions. When questioned about the list, an agency representative claimed that there is no ranking, and the DHS doesn’t look at a certain number of people. The representative continued, the service looks for those who are extremely vulnerable and difficult to reach, such as older persons who may have spent years living on the streets.
Due to privacy concerns, the DHS does not share the list with other agencies, and it’s unclear if the subway safety teams led by Mayor Eric Adams have access to it. However, non-profit teams on the street frequently cross paths with the same individuals repeatedly, so they have a solid notion of who is most at risk – regardless of what the roster indicates, according to sources.
Neely’s death was determined to be a homicide by the city medical examiner. According to reports, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is looking into the matter and will convene a grand jury if necessary to decide whether the perpetrator, former Marine Daniel Penny, needs to be charged with a felony. The defense team for Penny claims that their client acted in self-defense because Neely was posing a threat to him and the other passengers, and that Penny never intended to hurt Neely.