I have a story about somebody that hasn’t been lost yet. This is, as of now, a story of hope. I work as a Housing Case Manager at one of Seattle’s largest and lowest barriers homeless shelters. I worked with an older gentleman who has a nearly lifelong addiction to heroin. The use of heroin is not allowed at this shelter, so he ended up getting kicked out of the shelter over and over again for this infraction. And he eventually stopped returning. I still see him outside, in the same location, fairly often.
Now, I work in a shelter so I know they aren’t great. But despite its numerous shortcomings, one thing that my specific shelter undeniably offers is access to case management. It offers access to help managing or even overcoming the myriad problems that these troubled individuals face. But his addiction has led him to prefer the lack of safety, lack of stability, and lack of help that comes with living on the streets.
Aside from the undeniable increase in safety that comes with supervised consumption sites, there is also a well-documented increase in willingness to access treatment. This gentleman used to access services. He stopped because he was constantly kicked out. If we had a location where he was welcomed, he would access those services again.
I still see him outside, and wish there was more I could do for him. The thing is, there IS more we can do. Opening supervised consumption sites is precisely how we can help this man, and the countless other people that are in similar situations. This is how we help. This is how we as a society improve the quality of people’s lives.
We don’t need to wait until someone has died of an OD for them to matter. We don’t need to wait until somebody has died, usually alone and always unnecessarily, to count them. We can see a problem and work proactively to stop it from getting worse. This man isn’t dead. He will benefit from an SCS. And that is my story of hope. I hope that he does not become merely another grim statistic that people like me use to try to convince others to provide help for those in need.