Neighbors concerned about outreach program for drug users in St. - KPTV - FOX 12

Neighbors concerned about outreach program for drug users in St. Johns neighborhood

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A non-profit is trying to stop the spread of disease by giving out meth pipes and syringes, but it’s also causing controversy in one north Portland neighborhood.

The Portland People’s Outreach Project provides needles, glass meth pipes, food, clothing and health information at different distribution sites throughout the city.

The program aims to prevent the spread of diseases like HIV and HPV through shared needles. They also distribute Naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

They distribute the items from a community center on North Lombard and North Alma on Saturday afternoons.

Some people living near the center tell Fox 12 they worry the distribution is having a negative impact on their neighborhood.

“I empathize with their desire to help keep these people who are using meth, heroin, healthy,” said Patrick Hughes. “That’s admirable. The thing of it is, we’re concerned about the health of our neighborhood, the health of our community, the health of ourselves, our safety when we walk out the door.”

Hughes and his neighbor David, who did not provide his last name, tell Fox 12 they’ve seen an increase in drug activity and other crimes over the last year. While they stopped short of blaming the distribution site for all the drug activity they’ve witnessed, they said it is not helping and would like the distribution of needles and pipes to stop.

“We’ve seen a lot of drug deals happen on our streets,” said David. “We’ve seen drug users, walking up and down the street fighting with each other, often times very, very aggressively. Noticeably under the influence.”

The increase has prompted them to form a neighborhood watch.

Portland People’s Outreach Project started their outreach for drug users, including a needle exchange, in St. Johns last summer. They began distributing meth pipes a few months ago.

Shilo Murphy, the executive director of People’s Harm Reduction Alliance, which oversees the Portland People’s Outreach Project, said their goal is to help be a solution to the problem.

“Our whole strategy is to love the drug users who already exist in the neighborhood and try to support them in healthy life development,” he said, adding that support may mean sobriety, or another form of help, depending on the person.

The program has distributed 260,000 clean syringes and 900 doses of Naloxone, which has the potential to save up to 2,000 lives, volunteer Sam Junge told Fox 12 on Monday.

“There’s definitely a lot of stigma that drug users face,” said Junge. “We really believe the response to that stigma is to show love and compassion and tell drug users that we care about you. You deserve dignity.”

The building was vandalized over the weekend.

Someone spray painted “Stop Supporting Meth” on the side of the building.

On Monday evening, Junge said the vandalism adds to the stigma faced by drug users.

Cherokee Campbell, who manages the auto shop across the street from the community center, said they recently found 26 needles underneath a car.

Other vehicles have been broken into recently, said Campbell, but he didn’t know if the people who visit the non-profit are to blame for the incidents.

More communication between the owners of the community center and the non-profit and people living in the neighborhood would help, he said.

“These people are staples here, and want to just feel safe. When people want to feel safe, then they need to be talked to,” he said.

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