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Monday, July 24, 2017

As an open-air heroin camp is closed, options narrow

At the top end of Gurney Street in Fairhill, Philadelphia, there's a dirt path that forks through some trees and winds behind an old car repair shop, down to the rail tracks below.

Follow the path and you'll find a makeshift shooting gallery under a bridge, where heroin addicts gather out of sight and the ground is a sea of used syringes, cookers and needle caps. Users stand around a wooden table to fix, tying on tourniquets and tapping in the crooks of their arms to bring up their veins. One man leans into a mirror to find a spot on his neck, carefully pushing a needle through the skin and rolling back into a chair, his eyes glazing over. Others line up along a long steel beam that forms part of the bridge, unwrapping fresh syringes and preparing to inject. For anyone too nervous, or too far gone, to find a vein, there's a man in a wooden shack a few metres away known as "the doctor", who will stick you for a dollar.

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.

But next week the city will begin to clear this stretch of track and force the users out. After months of negotiations between officials and rail company Conrail, contractors, guarded by police, will enter at the Kensington Avenue end and work their way up, disposing of an estimated 500,000 used needles, tearing down structures, and eventually paving over El Campamento and installing concrete rubble under the bridges to ward off new camps.



Anonymous said...

You know, there's a Weed grow facility being built just south of Selbybille, DE in MD. Tall fences topped with barbed wire. I'm confused by the large banner hanging on the fence stating "FACTORY STORE". How can a (licensed) growing facility be a STORE? Is this something Jim Mathias snuck in during his quest to join the drug trade?


Anonymous said...

Places like El Campimento are there for a reason, they developed organically to fill a need. Places like that, on unused land, if not bothering anyone, should be left alone.

Anonymous said...

@10:21 It sounds to me by reading the article that the owner of the property wants them gone! That is a problem! Period! I don't think there is any property in the United States that isn't owned by someone! So according to you since it fills a need, why don't you open your home and yard to all the Junkies so they can have a safe place to use ILLEGAL DRUGS! Oh but don't ask for any assistance in cleaning up after the animals!