Court Rejects Plan to Open a Supervised Injection Site

Jose Benitez and Ronda Goldfein, President and Vice President of Safehouse, are pictured speaking at a community meeting in Harrowgate in April of 2019. Photo: T. Lineman / Juniata News

An appeals court has rejected Safehouse’s plan to open a supervised injection site in Philadelphia. The court, in a 2-1 decision on Tuesday, said that the opening of a site would violate the Crack House Statute.

U.S. Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas wrote that Safehouse’s goals, although worthy, violate current law. “Its motives are admirable. But Congress has made it a crime to open a property to others to use drugs.”

U.S. Attorney William McSwain, who has been on the forefront of opposing the injection site, tweeted “The court’s opinion is a faithful reading of the statute and is consistent with Congress’ intent to protect American neighborhoods from the scourge of concentrated drug use.”

The Kensington and Harrowgate Civic Associations have been fighting the opening of the site which would permit drug users to bring the drugs that they purchase on the street to come into a site and inject in the presence of medical personnel. Safehouse says that this would reduce the number of overdose deaths in Philadelphia. Community groups maintain that, among other things, the site still leaves the community members in danger because of all the criminal gun violence surrounding the sale of drugs on their streets.

The presidents of the Kensington and the Harrowgate Civic Associations applauded the court’s decision.

“I am so happy to hear that we the community have won this round,” said Marnie Aument-Loughrey, president of the Kensington Independent Civic Association, “but they still have the right to appeal this decision just as we did. The lawyer will tell us if they appeal the decision ” She said that the community must stay vigilant and she thanked those who assisted in opposing the injection site. “I would like to take this moment to thank everyone for all of the hard work that the community has done, from gathering signatures and attending meetings and protests. The fight is not over for our community, but this does help make it a little better.”

Shannon Farrell, president of the Harrowgate Civic Association, sees the decision as a win for her neighborhood, and is asking for neighbors’ vigilance as the fight continues. She also wants the City to step up with better plans to help those who are homeless in the neighborhood. “Today the federal appellate court ruled that Safehouse can’t open a Safe Injection Site in Philly. While I’m sure this court battle isn’t over, I think we can and should keep applying pressure on the city for better solutions. I think we should push forward with making sure the city comes up with better treatment, housing etc. for the homeless in our communities as well as restoring the quality of life for the families in our community who are suffering as well. Having said that, the Harrowgate Community is satisfied with the court’s decision.”

Ronda Goldfein, vice president of Safehouse, said that Safehouse will continue its legal fight. Philadelphia reported 1,150 overdose deaths in 2019. That number is expected to be higher for 2020.

%d bloggers like this: