Los trabajadores sociales han advertido que el cierre de ‘El Campamento’, en Filadelfia, solo desplazará a unas personas con numerosas necesidades y agravará su situación de vulnerabilidad.
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This is "El Campamento", the busiest and most built-up of a handful of hidden-away injection sites along a half-mile stretch of freight track between 2nd Street and Kensington Avenue. For more than 20 years homeless people and drug users have sought refuge in this gulch, and today there are about 70 people living along the tracks and up to 200 passing through every day to shoot up. As nightmarish as it feels, users here say it's a safe place, away from the police and the rest of the public, where people look out for each other and outreach workers visit regularly. Narcan - a nasal spray that reverses overdoses - is never far away.
The city is already predicting a 30% increase in overdoses this year, for the second year running, taking the grim toll from 900 to 1,200 - four times the estimated number of murders. Fentanyl - a tranquiliser 50 to 100 times more powerful than heroin which has been linked to deaths across the country - has taken hold, infecting the supply of heroin that floods into Philadelphia from the ports.
DBHIS is working with city-funded outreach groups like Prevention Point, in an attempt to engage with users before the track clearout. The charity began life 25 years ago as an underground needle exchange and two years ago moved into an old brownstone Methodist church in the heart of Kensington, a few blocks from the tracks. Hundreds of users travel to the building from all corners of the neighbourhood and beyond, for a check-up, a pack of clean needles or just a chat, and for a few hours every day the old church has a congregation of sorts.
There are no safe injection sites in America, yet. As the nation's opioid epidemic spirals, several major cities, including Seattle, San Francisco, and New York, are beginning to consider taking the leap, but there is fierce political resistance to the idea.