Rick does his usual round through the streets of Skid Row –around San Julian and Sixth Street. He is recognized and greeted by several members of the community. He keeps a lookout for individuals silently battling the hardships of living on the street. Individuals living in Skid Row face a journey fraught with adversity, but it is in these moments that Rick and The People Concern’s Outreach Team offer hope and compassion by providing them with harm reduction kits.
Harm reduction kits are a lifeline, delivering more than just supplies. They are symbols of care, empathy, and a commitment to preserving the dignity and well-being of every person, regardless of their circumstances. Within these kits lie the tools that can make a profound difference in the lives of those living on the margins. These kits hold clean needles, offering a glimmer of protection against the devastating grip of addiction; condoms, enabling individuals to safeguard their bodies and reduce the risks of sexually transmitted infections; and naloxone, a life-saving antidote that can reverse the darkness of an opioid overdose and offer a second chance at life.
The kits allow service providers to engage in genuine conversations, forging connections with those who often feel invisible and voiceless. In these exchanges, trust blooms, and a bridge is built between the individual living in Skid Row and a network of support and care. As a matter of fact, that is how Rick first connected with The People Concern back in 2021, “they were passing these kits around the time COVID started which helped reduce the spread of the virus. It was also around the time fentanyl was becoming more prominent in Skid Row so it was important to keep tools clean and disinfected to make sure you weren’t cross-contaminating.” The People Concern is fighting the preconception that people are living in the streets because they are drug users. The reality is, as Rick explains it, “we are using drugs because we are trying to survive the streets.”
Rick’s life had been saved by one of these kits. “One time I was out for 15 minutes,” he recalls. Word had gone out in Skid Row that Rick had passed away. And, to some extent, he had. When he woke up, Rick began to realize the level of harm he was causing to himself and his loved ones, “I had not seen death like this. I thought about my brother, sister, and my three daughters. I would be a disappointment to my family.” Rick opted to listen to his case manager and moved into transitional housing and reduced the amounts of substances he was consuming. He began his path to recovery.
The People Concern provided the resources necessary for Rick to avoid relapsing and maintain a clean lifestyle. He has now moved into permanent housing and has had the opportunity to give talks to The People Concern clients transitioning into shelters and permanent supportive housing.
Thanks to the harm reduction kits, The People Concern was able to save the lives of 56 individuals by reversing opioid overdoses in 2022. “They really do care,” emphasizes Rick as he finishes his walk at the entrance of the Mollie Lowery and Frank Rice Center, “The People Concern gives us a second chance.”