Homeless Individuals Are People Too


Homeless individuals may sometimes be overlooked and as people who should be treated without regard to their circumstances or how they became homeless. Jerome Murdough was a homeless man who recently lost his life to what may have been a mishap in the procedures for how law enforcement in the state of New York handle the way homeless individuals should be addressed.

Murdough was arrested on Feb. 7, 2014, on charges of trespassing because he was allegedly trying to sleep on the roof of a public housing development located in Harlem, New York. Law enforcement proceeded to transport Murdough to a correctional facility due to his inability to pay the fines for his charges. Considering the fact that Murdough was homeless at the time of his arrest, and the reason for his arrest, it appears that there was no forethought as to whether his homeless situation may have coincided with the possibility that he did not have the monetary resources to pay the fine, unfortunately resulting in his death. This situation may be one of many situations in which there is a possibility that homeless individuals are treated as criminals for being homeless instead of being properly directed to a location where appropriate and applicable help can be sought.

On the issue of Murdough being wrongfully misplaced into the incorrect institutional facility, there could be a strong possibility  that he should have been sent to a place where he could be properly cared for, considering the fact that he was diagnosed and being treated for a medical condition that required Murdough to be prescribed anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication. According to trespassing laws in the state of New York, individuals found meeting the description of trespassing could be fined up to $2,500, such as was the case with Murdough. Because the homeless man was unable to post his bail, he was sent to Riker’s Island, the main facility used to detain criminals in and around New York City. It is believed that no consideration was taken into account that Murdough’s medication may have a substantial effect on how his body may react to room temperatures, and this is presumed to be the reason for his death as investigators discovered that the temperature in his jail cell was speculated to be at least one-hundred degrees.

On the issue of homeless individuals in America, it may seem as if there are people out there who are not aware of the seriousness that being homeless can ensue, and/or cannot appreciate the fact that there are people out there who do not have the pleasure of coming home to a hot meal, being able to sleep in a warm bed under a warm blanket, or can enjoy the privacy and comfort that only a sanctuary may have to offer. Whenever homeless individuals are  seen crouched down in a doorway in order to avoid the direct path of the bitter winds during the winter season, or perhaps curled up in a ball on a cold metal park bench trying to get a few hours of sleep while the traffic of the world noisily passes by, or maybe even scrounging around in dirty germ-infested trash cans looking for anything that resembles food, it may be safe to come to the conclusion that this homeless individual is not living this way on a daily basis by personal choice. If only there were enough people filled with empathy and compassion who crossed paths with the homeless Murdough while alive, it is almost a guarantee that any help offered would have most likely been greatly appreciated, even to the point of sparing his life.

Opinion by Stephanie Tapley

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New York Times