Las reformas en Portugal no son una panacea y siguen ancladas en la prohibición, pero los sustanciales efectos positivos son innegables. Más información, en inglés, está disponible abajo.


By Max Harris

“Some people call this place The Living Room,” the young man I’ve just met tells me. And looking around the room, you can see why. Several people are relaxing on two comfy-looking couches. There are sandwiches on the table. A couple of guys are sitting on steps leading out onto a busy street in central Lisbon. Someone’s on Facebook at the counter. The xx are playing in the background. It could almost be an inner-city art collective, or an activist meet-up spot.

But several things suggest this is no ordinary living room. A poster on the wall says, ‘Aren’t We All Drug Users After All?’ Another: ‘Say No to the War on Drugs.’ People are coming and going into side-rooms, where a social worker in casual clothes occasionally shows her face. The young guy next to me is handing out snacks to people who approach him with a numbered slip of paper.

This place, I discover, has a few different functions. It’s a Harm Reduction Centre, run by GAT (Grupo de Ativistas em Tratamentos), a Portuguese HIV organisation. The GAT Centre links people to social services and helps people navigate the health system. It provides injecting and smoking materials, including syringes and crack pipes. It takes used syringes, deposited in a closed container behind the counter. It offers basic services to those living in the streets, including access to the internet and a phone, clothing, and hygiene products. The model focuses on relationship-building. One employee explains: “Maybe first, people come in for a drug kit and leave straight away. The next time they come in, we encourage them to have a coffee and take a kit. The time after, they might see a social worker or a nurse. We hope it builds from there.”

It feels different from other social service centres I’ve spent time in. People wear colourful clothing. One user of the centre comes up to chat, and leaves me with a band name to look up. There’s less shame about why people are there.