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.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Tracks: Organized Community In Hell

As several of us from Urban Hope stood "upstairs" from The Tracks, our guide came up and said Narcan was needed immediately down stairs.  My first ever supply was strapped to my belt. I told our leader that I had some and off we went on my first ever run down the hill into the bullseye of the drug epidemic on the east coast of our great nation. 

We dashed past the hospital (A wood plank shack) where the doctor (an expert injector) helps people who can't do so themselves shoot up with heroin.  We arrived at the foot of the hill where our half unconscious overdosed human being created in the image of God was parked, somewhat leaning up against the cement foundation that holds up the Second Street bridge. After some assessment, we felt that Narcan was not needed.  I was not able to take pictures of this area but you can see this exact place in this interview video from when Dr. Oz was there a month ago.  In this video, you will see the hill I ran down, the "hospital," the piles of debris and more.  

As I stood there in the worst desecration of humanity I've ever experienced, and remember I've seen some extreme poverty and Honduras, Dominican Republic and Mexico, I could not help but notice an odd sense of order to this hellish scene. In between the piles of debris which consisted of furniture parts, tires, paper, needles, syringes, heroin wrappers, human feces and more, there was a man doing his job of sweeping the "hallways" between these piles. The floor of these hallways consisted of dirt and rocks.  There were well-dressed men in one area which I later was told were the local dealers and distributors who had no concern about our presence.

This was the beginning of our walk along the tracks. We were at the Western end of what is considered to be the bullseye of the drug epidemic. We made our way east walking along the tracks and staying aware of our surroundings as our leader explained what we were observing. She told us that earlier in the day two bodies had been removed. I asked her if this was a typical number she said no. A typical number is 4 to 6 each and every day of the year.

As we walked a mile or so east along the tracks she explained to us that organized gangs from Central and South America operate there. They have their own lingo and system for communicating with each other that does not even sound like human voices.

There are so many stories within the story I'm presently sharing that I am actually struggling to figure out which ones to tell you at this time.

As we were nearing the end of our tour, that is to say, as we were coming back from our one-mile east walk, we began ascending where we had descended an hour or so earlier. I looked over and saw a young Hispanic woman actively shooting up with heroin with the assistance of a man approximately her age. We watched from a distance as they struggled to find a vein in her arm into which to shoot her heroin. I looked at her and simply thought to myself that she is someone's daughter. I prayed for her and felt the sadness in my heart grow.  Several of us observed her and all of us I am sure prayed quietly for her knowing that there was nothing that we could do to stop what was happening in front of us. 

As we stood there at the base of the hill that led us back "upstairs" we just took in the scene. Cameras are not really appreciated down there and so I have no significant pictures to show you but it was truly surreal. There was a sense of order and a sense of community which you would find in any group of people. And yet there was absolute desperation the likes of which I have never known in my life. 

Ambulance Crews rarely come downstairs. When an ambulance is needed for someone, that someone is carried to the top of the hill, that is to say, brought upstairs, where the ambulance crew will tend to them.

As much as I can tell the two primary reasons that an ambulance comes to the Tracks is for overdose and childbirth.  Let that sink into your soul for a bit. Awaiting Death and the birth of new life are the primary reasons for professional healthcare at the tracks.

No...  Really... Don't continue reading this blog until you've stopped and thought about babies being born in this place...

Natalie

As we were starting to make our way up the hill I noticed that the young woman and the young man who had just been shooting up their heroin were actually catching up to us. I told our leader that I was broken-hearted to have watched this young person sticking a needle in her own arm. Our leader said that her name is Natalie. When Natalie got close enough to us with her guy friend our leader introduced me to them and told Natalie that I felt bad for her and her situation. Natalie immediately said that she was very embarrassed by her situation and wants help.  The four of us chatted together and I explained to her that she could find help if you wanted it and she said she does want it. I told her about the Recovery Group at Urban Hope and she said she really wanted to come to it.

About an hour later as I was heading toward my favorite Wawa store to get some lunch. In between A and B Streets, I saw Natalie and her guy friend whose name is Mike. I pulled over at the intersection that you see at the 28-second point of this video which is right next to the tracks and we casually talked.  They told me how much both of them want out of the drug situation that they are in. I gave them my sheet of paper that I give to folks that has the Urban Hope weekly schedule and they said they would be there.

Before we went our own way, we formed a three-person prayer circle and prayed together for their healing.  Stop and think about that for a moment...  Something like an hour earlier, I had seen them shooting up heroin at the base of the Tracks.  And now, here we were in a prayer circle praying to the LORD to save them and bring them healing. 

There is so much more that I will have to write about this day.  But for now, I've got to stop.  I'll be back there in less than 12 hours!

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