After Community Uproar, Safe Injection Site in South Philadelphia Canceled

Plans to open what would have been the first supervised injection site in the United States at a plaza in South Philadelphia have been canceled, one day after the facility was publicly announced, 6 ABC reports.

Safehouse, the non-profit behind the controversial injection site will no longer open a facility at Constitution Health Plaza on South Broad Street, a spokesman for the plaza said Thursday night. The facility that would allow heroin users to inject themselves with clean needles under supervision of medical personnel was scheduled to open next week.

A spokesperson with the Constitution Health Plaza says they are canceling the lease.

“We have made the decision to cancel plans to locate a supervised injection site at Constitution Health Plaza,” plaza spokesman Anthony Campisi said in a statement. “We believe in the good intentions of all involved – on both sides of this issue – and want to thank you for your honest communications with us over the past few days.”

On Friday morning, Anthony Giordano of ‘Stand Up South Philly and Take Our Streets Back’ expressed relief, but said a rally is still planned for 3 p.m. Sunday.

“We’ve won the battle. We haven’t won the war. I don’t believe that the city’s going to back down. I think they’re going to try to backdoor this some place else. We’re not going to put up for it. Nowhere in Philadelphia. So if any of the other leaders out there in other communities in Philadelphia need us out there, I’ll gladly come anywhere,” Giordano said.

Mayor Jim Kenney, a supporter of the facility, said that Safehouse had voluntarily agreed earlier Thursday to delay the opening of the facility in South Philadelphia after mounting public backlash from both residents and local lawmakers. However, the plaza owner backed out, alerted the City that he was no longer interested in moving forward with the lease. Kenney acknowledged that the injection site no longer has a certain location.

“In light of this development and the strong concerns voiced over the past two days, it’s clear that no site will open imminently. I am glad that this will allow Safehouse more time to examine its options, and to engage the community,” Kenney said.

The council members who represent the area say that was part of the problem, residents were never consulted and left in the dark from the beginning.

“You can’t come into a community, make a decision such as putting a safe injection site, putting children in danger, without consulting with the community. But most importantly the site was absurd in the first place,” said Councilman Kenyatta Johnson.

“So I think they’re gonna push the reset button here and get the folks to see what’s the best way to go forward from this point,” said Councilman Mark Squilla.

The Safehouse announcement On Wednesday, immediately caused an uproar among residents and local legislators.

“We had no advance notice from the administration or the organization. My concern with this is that we are acting in haste and we will repent in leisure,” said Councilwoman Katherine Gilmore Richardson.

“We were ambushed,” one resident said.

U.S. Attorney William McSwain, who lost his bid to stop Safehouse last year, announced he would appeal the ruling to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He filed a motion Thursday afternoon asking that the injection site not open until the conclusion of the appeals process.

“Here, a stay would preserve the status quo while the Third Circuit [Court of Appeals] examines the legality of the proposed site, and would prevent the chaos that would occur should Safehouse lurch forward with an opening while the case is still ongoing,” McSwain said in a statement.

The Plaza holds both an existing school and a day care center.

Under the Safehouse plan, drug addicts could bring drugs to the clinic-like setting, use them in a partitioned bay and get medical help if they overdose. They would also have access to counseling, treatment and other health services.

Safehouse organizers said that about one person dies of an overdose each week in South Philadelphia. Supervised injection sites are also being considered in other U.S. cities including Seattle, New York, San Francisco and Somerville, Massachusetts.

About Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith is a newcomer to Washington D.C. She met, and married an American journalist and moved to D.C from the U.K. She graduated with a B.A in Graphic, Media and Communications and worked in design and retail in the U.K.

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