Please Know...

As I come to know the men and women of Kensington, specifically the homeless and addicted, their stories become increasingly sensitive and personal. Their collective story is what I am trying to share with you as my way of breaking the stereotypical beliefs that exist in regard to these fine people. Names are rarely their actual names and wherever I can do so, I might use the opposite pronoun (his/her, etc.) just to help increase their privacy.

Monday, December 11, 2017

I was recently asked why I support community living in places like Emerald City.

Communities such as Emerald City have become, by default, safe injection sites.  Do they meet the official criteria of a safe injection site?  Probably not. But they are, none the less.  Of the three overdoses requiring Narcan that I have witnessed in Emerald City, all were saved by other homeless addicted people who live there and carry Narcan.[1]  They look out for each other in this regard.

In the case of Emerald City, The City of Brotherly Love visits with police and sanitation workers to "clean out" the community once each week, currently on Friday mornings.  The 40 to 60 residents MUST pack up all of their belongings and haul them up the street one block before the officer in charge decides that time is up.  The sanitation workers then gather anything that was left behind and crushes it in their trash trucks.  This includes perfectly good personal belongings of these men and women.  If any man or woman happens to not be there at this time, the likelihood that they will lose ALL of their possessions is very high.

Scattering the residents of these communities by systematically removing them from their community living area leads some of them to living in solitude in abandoned buildings.  And that just makes sense.  Think about it.  If I am required by Philadelphia to move all of my possessions one block up the street each week, why shouldn't I move into an abandoned building and set up my own home where I won't have to move?  These men and women move in and will continue to use their drugs (their 'medicine' as they call it[2]).  They will run the much higher risk of overdosing where no one else will see them doing so.  The end result is one more dead daughter or son, sister or brother, mother or father, niece or nephew.

When these human communities of high school drop outs[3], college graduates with their bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees and skilled labor have no funds for housing, they do what they can to create protection from the elements.  The result is blanket and sheet, cardboard and plywood homes on sidewalks.  If the sight of these homes for our sons and daughters in the City of the American Revolution bothers you, don't call city hall and complain.  Visit them.  Knock on their front sheet.  Sit with them.  Invite them to tell you their story and tell them you care.

[1] All three were within two weeks just recently.  The first two were in a ten minute period and these two men were saved by one woman, a resident of Emerald City.  She knew what to do and I, with my (former) EMT training and 20 years of hospital work assisted her. I was in awe of her knowledge and skill as she did what she knew needed to be done to save these men.  Two families have this woman to thank for not losing their son and/or father that day.  The third overdose was a woman who relapsed after being drug free for four months.  She thanked me yesterday for saving her life a couple weeks ago.  I clarified with her that I only monitored her pulse and respirations while a woman in the community did the saving.  Ever since this day, whenever I see this latter woman, I give her a hug and say "Good morning/afternoon Life Saver!"   She smiles and says "Thank you."
[3] Many have dropped out due to their addiction.

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