São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad has implemented a unique approach to combating crack use in a run-down area of the city center.
The program, “De Braços Abertos” (With Open Arms) provides housing, food and work opportunities -- mainly trash pickup in the Luz neighborhood known as Cracolândia -- to some 400 drug users who had previously lived on the streets there. Giving up drug use is not a condition for participating, though participants are encouraged to do so and have greater access to addiction treatment therapy. It was inspired by the success of similar programs in the Netherlands and Canada.
Now, seven months since De Braços Abertos began, the mayor’s office claims the program is starting to show results. According to city officials, while participants largely continue to use crack cocaine the intensity of their use has dropped significantly (with daily usage down roughly 50 to 70 percent, and concentrated mostly during evening hours). They have also benefitted from a drastically increased quality of life as result of the housing and access to health care.
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