Michael E. Neely, a Vietnam veteran who developed from the fiery chief of Skid Row’s March to the Sea to develop into one of the crucial progressive and influential minds in Los Angeles homeless and social companies coverage, has died at age 74.
A former Marine and recovering drug addict, Neely was dwelling in a cardboard field on Skid Row in 1988 when he got here up with the thought of sending a workforce of previously unhoused folks out to information their friends by means of the maze of social companies. The idea was a prototype for Mayor Karen Bass’ Inside Secure program to get folks out of encampments.
Underneath his path, the company developed right into a nationwide mannequin providing psychological, medical and drug remedy care, housing, outreach, hurt discount and jail reentry companies.
Lengthy earlier than they turned watchwords of contemporary social service follow, Neely championed ideas like racial fairness, cultural competency, lived expertise and the particular wants of LGBTQ+ homeless youth. An mental who knew the place each physique in L.A. politics was buried, he had the ear of leaders on the metropolis, state and federal stage. However he by no means misplaced his concentrate on the lives of homeless folks.
Neely died at residence June 13 after a quick hospitalization. A memorial service is ready for July 8.
“We misplaced a large,” mentioned Cheryl Department, a nonprofit government and the mom of Neely’s youngest son, Daniel.
Born in 1948 in New Orleans, Neely was raised in Chicago’s Black center class amongst others who had joined the Nice Migration north, fleeing the racism, poverty and lynchings of the South.
He attended St. Emma Navy Academy exterior Richmond, Va., the one army boarding faculty within the U.S. devoted to younger Black and Native American males.
His faculty training was interrupted when he enlisted within the Marines, serving in Vietnam as a marksman within the 2nd Battalion, ninth Infantry. He returned with a then little-understood post-traumatic stress dysfunction that led to a substance use downside.
After he moved to Los Angeles, medication value him an aerospace job and an residence in Hollywood. He stayed in shelters, SRO resort rooms and encampments on Skid Row and in downtown. After getting clear he rapidly rose as a serious voice for different homeless people.
After the town bulldozed an city campground he helped head with Ted Hayes, chief of the self-help homeless group Justiceville, they led a homeless March to the Sea in 1987 to boost consciousness of situations on Skid Row, briefly tenting at Palisades Park in Santa Monica, with stops in Beverly Hills and Malibu.
“We need to hit areas of affluence and affect,” Neely advised The Occasions on the time.
Neely joined group teams, assailed the Metropolis Council and Board of Supervisors at conferences and sat in on the metropolis of Santa Barbara protesting policing of homeless folks, which his daughter Lauren Lees mentioned led to his arrest. However the protests didn’t appear to work.
So he turned to the Neighborhood Redevelopment Company, then a serious L.A. energy participant and developer and an unlikely funder of a grass-roots group of previously unhoused folks. “No person was hiring folks with what we now name lived expertise in these days,” mentioned Herb Hatanaka, government director of Particular Service for Teams (SSG), Neely’s funding sponsor. “However Mike had not solely an excellent imaginative and prescient, he had a transparent sense of tips on how to implement it. “
The CRA awarded him $58,600 in 1988 and he opened the Homeless Outreach Program with 5 workers in a storefront on Sixth Road on Skid Row. The yellow-capped and T-shirted HOP workforce discovered homeless folks within the streets and obtained them the companies they have been entitled to, together with drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
“He was indignant and intense,” she mentioned. “However he by no means forgot what he got here from, and was prepared to talk out to say what wanted to be mentioned.”
In 1992, Neely’s company expanded because the multi-service Homeless Outreach Program Built-in Care Companies (HOPICS). Neely drew up a blueprint for this system on a bar serviette for a grant proposal, mentioned Department.
Neely was chosen as a Hesselbein Fellow of the Peter Drucker Basis (now Chief to Chief Institute), the place he was mentored by Jim Collins, creator of “Good To Nice,” in management and administration methods, smoothing his tough edges, Tull mentioned. “He turned an actual chief.”
He retired from HOPICS and in 2011 was appointed to the Los Angeles Homeless Companies Fee, the one member with private expertise of homelessness. “He was the voice of the homeless on that board,” mentioned Larry Adamson, a former commissioner and chief working officer of Midnight Mission.
Neely highlighted the overrepresentation of Black folks within the homeless inhabitants, and fought for funds for South Los Angeles’ mother and pop homeless businesses and in opposition to Skid Row teams he believed exploited staff with “coaching” wages.
He mentored different leaders together with Sarah Dusseault, a former commissioner and member of Committee for Higher L.A., which is pushing for housing on metropolis land.
“He was very astute, learn each doc,” she mentioned. “However he at all times introduced it again to folks and humanity, away from numbers.”
“He was like a conscience for the fee,” mentioned Hatanaka.
In 2017, Neely left the fee to affix the Los Angeles County Fee for Older Adults, partly to forge a hyperlink to the growing old homeless inhabitants. “How will you fairly anticipate a person who’s rattling close to 80 years outdated to outlive [shelters] … until we have now specialised services?” he mentioned.
Neely knew each nice hole-in-the-wall breakfast and lunch joint in Los Angeles, the place he would regale mates and colleagues together with his infectious humorousness. Seated subsequent to him at a public listening to, you have been in fixed hazard of laughing out loud at his sotto voce commentaries.
He was a member of a number of boards and advisory teams, together with state commissions on Homeless Veterans and on African American Males and Substance Abuse, the L.A. County Fee on Narcotics and Harmful Medication and the Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Mind Belief. The Strategic Actions for a Simply Economic system, the place he was board treasurer since 2019, gave him its Neighborhood Champion award this 12 months.
“He was a terrific man, however he was a greater father,” mentioned Lees. Along with Lees, Neely is survived by his sons, Daniel and Edward Neely; brothers, Mark and Marvin Neely; sisters, Lynda Neely and Gordette Brent; and nephews, nieces and grandchildren.
His memorial is July 8 from 11 a.m. to three p.m. on the SSG/HOPICS Weber Neighborhood Middle at 5849 Crocker St., Los Angeles, 90003.