Publication date: May 28, 2020
The park, which stands at the corner of Cabanne Avenue and Goodfellow Boulevard in the West End neighborhood of north St. Louis, consists of a small patch of grass surrounding a large playground in a neighborhood marked by vacant buildings.
A tall man nicknamed “Swoop,” his hair held together in a series of cascading braids, approaches the van tentatively, his movements halting and cautious as the latest hit of heroin crawls through his veins.
Standing at the front of the line are Miles Hoffman and Jen Nagel, staff members of the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery, or MoNetwork, located at 4022 South Broadway in south St. Louis.
Hoffman and Nagel eagerly engage with the men, smoothly reaching for simple black backpacks, known as Harm Reduction Kits, which they fill with a long list of items calculated to keep their customers alive for another week.
Hoffman, himself a recovering opiate user, says he wants to bring more resources to north St. Louis residents struggling with drug dependance and homelessness.
Which is why he takes the MoNetwork van to the spots around St. Louis where he knows they’re likely to find unhoused people.
About the time he went into recovery a couple years ago, Hoffman says, the market for illegal opiates went from prescription painkillers to much more powerful opiates, such as heroin and fentanyl.
“Things have kind of changed .. . the supply had changed, and the drugs had changed, but the people hadn’t,” Hoffman says.
It’s impossible to understand homelessness and drug use in isolation from other big-picture issues, such as access to health care and how people interact with police, Hoffman notes.
|disease||MESH||access to health care|