PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Debate over a possible safe-injection site in Kensington took place with neighborhood community members and leaders Monday. Some believe safe-injection sites can save lives while others believe they enable people with addiction to keep using.
The meeting, held at the Bethel Temple Community Bible Church on the 200 block of East Allegheny Avenue, featured a heated debate about the issue that has gripped the city and has even drawn a challenge by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“Because people don’t want it in Kensington,” Roz Pichardo, a supporter, said, “but the fact of the matter is, the amount of heroin that’s here, where else are you going to have it?”
Kensington community members and elected officials discussed the pros and cons of a proposed safe-injection site mere blocks away.
Safehouse, a nonprofit organization, began negotiating a lease last month for a site on Hilton Street in Kensington.
“It’s been rough,” Pichardo said. “You have a lot of things happening. A lot of syringes everywhere, but I think having a safe-injection site will eliminate a lot of that.”
Philadelphia Councilman Mark Squilla introduced legislation to rezone the area the building is located in to allow for more community involvement and he believes multiple sites need to open simultaneously.
Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez agrees.
“If you cannot convince me that I can safely place this in a neighborhood that we have acknowledged we went to and asked for support and we broke and we have to fix,” Quinones-Sanchez said.
Lizette Lewis is a nurse and social worker who says she sees firsthand the issues involved with opioid addiction, but is conflicted on safe-injection sites.
“I don’t believe there’s one solution because everyone has different needs,” Lewis said.
But not everyone is sold.
“The problem is there are too many schools in the neighborhood,” Gilberto Gonzales, who’s against safe-injection sites, said.
Some are calling for more input from City Hall.
“Until we reclaim this, and there is a lot of political will by this administration to reclaim these corners, we are not going to win this argument,” Quinones-Sanchez said.
One of the major issues for Harrowgate residents is that they say Safehouse has yet to talk to any of the community members about the proposed site.