This past Sunday, May 23, 2021, there were more blessings than I can describe as I wandered the streets of Kensington. I arrived early due to the expected excessive heat anticipated for later in the day. I saw my stunningly intelligent daughter Rose. I had awesome conversations with street residents and multi-generational residents of the area.
I distributed my usual bananas and water and song sheets. One of those recipients was a cute-as-button young woman who has told me that she's sick of 'doing dates' with total strangers so as to raise needed funds to meet her medicinal needs of street bound Substance Use Disorder. She's experimenting with drug dealing as an alternative income source.
The heat was getting oppressive. I was driving up "The Ave." with my windows down due to the dead air conditioning in my dying car. I glanced to my left and saw Destiny and Kassidy sitting in the shade of an open lot near Kensington and Somerset. I did a mid-block u-turn - a skill I've developed in these recent years, pulled to the side of the street, and parked. I walked up to them, sat on an available pillow, and we got caught up on an abridged version of the stuff in our lives.
A bit of back story: If you knew where to look on Facebook, you would find some incredible pictures of Destiny and Kassidy in their years before addiction took over. They are a stunning couple filled with the joy of life. They are my actual suburban neighbors with family homes within a reasonable bicycle ride of where I am sitting as I write this blog.
Destiny had recently injected her medicine and was dipping out on a combination of pillows. Once we were sure she was safe, Kassidy and I went to Martin's Deli, ordered a Chicken Nuggets Platter with cheese fries and coleslaw and a couple of drinks. We walked back to Destiny who was now awake. We rearranged the pillows to form three places to sit and used two pillows to create a table for our Sunday dinner.
Kassidy looked at me as we were getting organized and gave me the ultimate compliment:
"People who do what you do don't do what you're doing."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
Kassidy went on to explain that people who visit the streets to be kind in various ways to the people who live on those streets don't ever sit with them on the ground and would never do so for the purpose of eating dinner. "We're not clean." She said as she stared at the ground beneath our pillows.
I thanked Kassidy for her kind words and pointed out that "being clean or not clean" should only refer to the last time a person took a bath or had a shower. "You have a medical condition here that is causing you to do what you do. That has nothing to do with being or not being 'clean.'" Destiny and Kassidy both smiled their charming smiles at that thought.
Dinnertime conversation wandered from topic to topic as we dipped our chicken nuggets in the ranch and honey-mustard sauces. The cheese fries were awesome especially when dipped in either sauce. My typical chocolate milk had the added ingredients of bliss and joy as I shared this moment with my misplaced suburban neighbors.
At one point, a cluster of Sunday afternoon street evangelists visited the three of us and encouraged all of us to stop our sinful drug use or risk the eternal consequences.
As the actual neighbors who Destiny and Kassidy are to me, I've agreed to celebrate their sobriety with them by treating them to dinner at Harry's Savoy Grill by the end of this summer. And then I asked a question of them that brings me to the actual point of this blog:
"What's your first step in achieving that sobriety that will lead us to Harry's?"
I wasn't expecting the answer that Destiny gave me: "We don't know what to do."
I hope my confusion wasn't obvious. I was wondering how these two intelligent women could not know that they need to go to the nearest crisis center (which isn't actually 'near' to them), strip down to one layer of outer clothing, walk through a metal detector, be frisked by a male guard, fill out a form, sit in a stench filled room on chairs that should have been retired from use years ago and wait with all of their personal effects bagged up in trash bags out of reach of them hour upon hour upon hour with little to no comfort care as dope sickness increases only to be told that there are no beds available in the entire City of Brotherly Love and that they must now depart the premises and should come back some other day and try again.
"We don't know what to do." suddenly made sense to me.
Why should a patient with Substance Use Disorder tolerate and subject themselves to such torment, medical neglect and substandard of care from a medical community made up of people who have dedicated their careers to the ideals of Hippocrates?
Let's turn "We don't know what to do." Into "We know what to do."
Let's create a five-star high quality intake process right there on Kensington Avenue where those hundreds of homeless Substance Use Disorder patients will see dignity and respect flowing from its front doors, and know that they will be cared for and promptly tended to when they reach that point of wanting release from their addiction!
We can do this! Let us make it so!