By Mattea Kramer
Published September 27, 2020 2:17AM (UTC)

This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

…Back in March, one of the first recommendations for reducing the transmission of the coronavirus was, of course, to stay home — but not everyone has a home, and when businesses, restaurants, libraries, and other public spaces locked their doors, some people were left without a place even to wash their hands. In Holyoke, Rafael Rodriguez and his colleagues at the Recovery Learning Community, along with staff from several other local organizations, rushed to city officials and asked that a handwashing station and portable toilets be installed for the many local people who live unhoused. Rodriguez sees such measures not only as fundamental acts of humanity, but also as essential to any viable treatment for addiction.

“It’s really hard to think about recovery, or putting down substances, when [your] basic human needs aren’t being met,” he said. In the midst of extreme summer heat, he pointed out that there wasn’t even a local cooling center for people on the streets and it was clear that, despite everything he had seen in his life, he found this astonishing. He is now part of a community movement that is petitioning the local city government for an emergency shelter.

“When you have no idea where you’re going to rest your head at night, using substances almost becomes a survival tactic,” he explained. “It’s a way to be able to navigate this cruel world.” […] [CONTINUE READING]