I’d like to comment on my observations as a new harm reduction worker at South Riverdale CHC and its surrounding community.
Harm Reduction is a philosophy about the human rights of people who use drugs. It says that people who use drugs deserve all the same things that everyone else enjoys: safe housing, health care, food security, and employment.
The work we do is not just for those who access SRCHC programs, but also for the larger community. Often, and especially in neighbourhoods where there is a sharp divide between people who have privilege and those who don’t, there tends to be an “us and them” mentality. When you don’t live on the streets without shelter or food, it can be hard to understand what that experience is like. But many of our service users have been living in this area for decades. In fact, South Riverdale CHC has been serving this community for over 40 years and has been providing resources and programming to people who use drugs for over 20 years. Our service users share the same sidewalks and air as folks who are well-resourced. Our clients are humans just like you.
In harm reduction, some practical strategies include educating our clients, other service providers and the local residents about safer drug use, overdose prevention, and preventing HIV and Hep C transmission. The harm reduction kits we give out are not only for distribution of sterile needles or pipes and the associated equipment to use drugs more safely, but also a way to help engage with folks who are regularly excluded from mainstream health services and housing, and who are overrepresented in child welfare, prison and other systems.
Having said that, part of the safety of the community is people properly disposing of their equipment. We facilitate that with daily needle patrols throughout the neighbourhood and by providing a yellow secure-disposal bin at the west side of the building. Pre-COVID, we organized several annual community clean-ups during which staff and volunteers cleaned up garbage, as well as drug use equipment, from local parks and laneways.
If you have any questions about harm reduction, please call The Fixed Site at (416) 461-1925, ext. 235. If you have any concerns or suggestions, please call the COUNTERfit program coordinator at ext. 388.
And please remember that “our community is your community!
(These impressions are offered by a new SRCHC staff member.)