5th Square is a political action committee focused on issues around land use, mobility and the built environment. The supervised injection site (SiS) news this week has touched on a number of areas 5th Square is involved with in other ways, like land use authority, Councilmanic prerogative and governance, as well as the tensions between citywide policy and local accommodations. It also speaks to how rich communities use their power, like in scenarios with street design and housing, to unilaterally block beneficial public goods throughout the city. With that in mind, we are issuing the following statement on the supervised injection site proposed for South Philadelphia.
There will never be enough outreach to satiate community members determined to keep their landscape the same. Paradoxically, the harder people hold onto the status quo, the worse the outcomes of the inevitable changes. If we sit back while opiate use skyrockets, our backyards will fill with discarded needles and the dead bodies of our neighbors. Intervention through a SiS may be the thing that keeps our neighborhoods from that fate. SiS may not do everything we hope, but the cost of saying Not In My Backyard is too great to risk it. Councilmanic prerogative has already blocked a proposed site in Kensington.
South Philadelphia is currently experiencing the ravages of the opioid crisis and needs this today. Blocking the resources necessary to address it even one day more only continues to expose neighbors, including children and seniors, to the risks of open drug use. Government agencies are doing the work and it is incumbent upon our leaders to prioritize communications with these actors and responsibly address their constituents and neighbors. The political risk in this action's popularity requires leaders to step up to the task and explain why the priorities of their office positively affect the lives of their constituents.
5th Square supports Safehouse as they work to save lives. We hope to see more measures taken in every section of the city and rely on the expertise of social workers and healthcare professionals to decide what comes next. We look forward to the community meetings and civic engagement that will be a necessary byproduct of the opening of Safehouse.