PNS Media Channels > NCM | YO! Youth Outlook | The Beat Within | Debug | Roaddawgz | PNS News Wire

roaddawgz home
roaddawgz chatroom

c h a p t e r s
finding freedom
on the road
sqatting & gear
street hustles
drugs & addiction
staying healthy
going home
poetry & rhymes
art gallery

letters from the editor
about roaddawgz
Staying Healthy
What the SF Chronicle left out
Pangia, Aug 07, 2007

On Thursday August 2, 2007 I picked up a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle and was shocked by the front-page story, �Golden Gate Park Sweep. Can the City Make it Stick� and, ever more appalling, �March of the Junkies�. I read the article, written by C.W. Nevius, and was deeply disturbed and angered by his misrepresentation of Homeless Youth Alliance, The San Francisco Needle Exchange and the services they offer as well as his portrayal of the program�s Director Mary Howe. (Also called �Mary Sunshine� by participants.) Having had years of first hand experience with HYA and SFNE, I felt there was more to this story that needs to be told.

SFNE was founded in 1997 by Ro Giuliano & Matty Luv with help from many dedicated volunteers after the Recreation & Park Department fenced off the eastern end of Golden Gate Park for renovations. At this time, HIV Prevention Project (HPP), ran outreach exchange services and were being pressured by then Mayor Willy Brown and the Rec. & Park Department to dismantle and leave the Haight and Golden Gate Park area. And that�s exactly what HPP did. Kyle Ranson, HPP worker in 1997, was told by his supervisor, � If you would like to keep your job you can no longer do needle exchange services in Golden Gate Park or the surrounding areas.� HPP abandoned all who used and depended on their exchange services in the Haight and Golden Gate Park area.

SFNE offers general education about drug-use and addiction, disease prevention, overdose prevention and safety habits for I.V. drug users and the community the user lives in. The Cole St. site also offers medical care, case management, treatment options and support for users and families of users, as well as mental heath treatment and care. It�s a safe place to be, where participants can be comfortable in a non-judgmental, non-discriminatory environment where there are people participants can trust and relate to on many levels.

Mary Howe has been with SFNE for 8 years, first as a HAYOT (Haight-Ashbury Youth Outreach Team) worker for over 2 years, and in 2002 was hired as the SFNE coordinator when the programs merged. Today SFNE, now a program of HYA, is located at 584 Cole Street, open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5-7pm, and also runs a �Ladies Night� exchange at 165 Capp St. on Thursdays from 6-8pm. It has been and continues to be the only service targeting the predominately younger community of injectors in the Haight. On average SFNE serves 80-100 participants a week. Mary says �there is an average 70% return rate during exchange� but also stated �the return rate in the month of July was 114%�. Returns are also collected during HYA drop-in hours and during the SFNE�s monthly clean up of the east end of Golden Gate Park, the Panhandle and the surrounding Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. The clean-up crew is comprised of 10-20 staff and homeless youth who pick up garbage and syringes. SFNE receives roughly 15,000 used needles back each month, proving the efficiency, effort and effectiveness of the program as well as the dedication and devotion of their workers, volunteers and participants. As a former I.V. drug user, who recently celebrated 10 years clean and sober, Mary Howe feels that a place offering an environment and services, such as HYA offers today, was not only important but also necessary in our community. Never having had a place like this herself, she believes strongly in the program and the good it does for all its participants everyday.

HYA works to empower participants to treat themselves better and to treat the surrounding community better. Participants often find someone they can relate to and who understands them and what they go through daily as a homeless person who may or may not be an I.V. drug user; which in many cases (such as my own) leads the participant out of addiction and off the streets to become a �normal� and productive member of the community and society as a whole. When HYA is looking to hire new staff and outreach workers, the hiring committee always has a program participant present during interviews to ensure that the best suited candidates for the position gets the job. As a past participant and now current volunteer I know and believe the absolute importance and necessity of this program.

Howe is upset and disappointed by the fact that used needles have historically and continue to be discarded in a disrespectful and unsafe manner in Golden Gate Park and the surrounding areas when they could and should be brought and discarded at the exchange. But she wonders if the problem is rooted in the lack of community education, outreach workers specifically targeting the older population of I.V. drug users and the lack of options and exchange location around the city, such as the Sunset and Richmond districts. SFNE has proposed to the Recreation & Park Department the idea of used syringe disposal containers to be put up through out Golden Gate Park and public rest rooms around the Haight St area in an effort to solve the problem of used syringes being discarded in an unsafe manner in the area. The Recreation & Park Department has yet to accept the suggestion even though many of their own workers including gardeners are in support of the idea. SFNE will continue its efforts and proposals toward this idea and, hopefully, it�s launch in the future. This issue of disposal is a city-wide issue not only in the Haight.

For now SFNE operates, as it has since 1997, for disease prevention and safe disposal. Participants regularly tell HYA and SFNE staff that the San Francisco Needle Exchange is the best exchange in the city and among the best in the country. Participants frequently volunteer with SFNE. Mary Howe spends roughly 100 hours a week (paid hours and free time) working on issues, activities and needs related to both programs. She is extremely and deeply devoted to its cause and the services it provides to participants. Without programs such as HYA and SFNE many young drug users and homeless people wouldn�t have access to services to help them get off the streets, get sober or live healthier more empowered lives.

img width="35" height="39" border=0 alt="" align="left" hspace="02" vspace="02" src=/directory/getdata.asp?about_id=5a21ae96a45a84a2e279072b985e7018-2>

Page 1 of 1

Post your comments
First/Last Name

Your Email Address

Your Comments

Disclaimer: roaddawgz will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. roaddawgz reserves the right to edit comments that are published.

Copyright ©2004 RoadDawgz & Pacific News Service
275 9th Street | San Francisco, CA 94104