Street Tales: The Debate of Values Part 1

What is the value of a human life? Can it be measured monetarily, or are there other standards by which we gauge its worth? For some people anything that is alive is priceless, while for the next person there are limits placed on the value. Some cultures seemingly have no value placed on life, except their own.

During a Tuesday supper, we had another OD at the kitchen. We do not have, nor will we have, a Naloxone Kit on site, by choice.

Emergency services in Red Deer are very quick to respond. We do not have the training to use them, so, legally we may not.

As the paramedics were taking the fellow out for a trip to the hospital, they mentioned that this same young man had pulled the same stunt three times in the last week. Is there a point where we say enough?

I have heard many comments and opinions expressed from all segments of society; everything from “let them die” to “how can we help”. Having been a part of this street community for the past 20 years we have heard it all. We get phone calls to “Keep your people away from my business” but also “Thanks for doing what you do for those less fortunate”. I have heard insulting tirades against our persons but also heaps of praise and thanks.

We have been encouraged by several factions to move our location but no willingness to help finance the move.

The drug traffic around our building is heavy, but even if we moved, the core will always remain the core. If not our building, it will be someone else’s. Downtown is and will remain downtown.

So, as the paramedics were wheeling this ODer out the door, I found myself asking me, “What am I doing here?” Every once in a while I face that question and so I have to think about just what I am doing. Am I helping or am I enabling? What would happen if we were not there? Where would these folks go? I even go so far sometimes as to think about just letting them die if they want to hurt themselves so much. The internal conflict on this subject is constant.

But then I think about the most incredible pain that I have seen in family members as they bury their dead, and I get the reality check that I need to get my head on right. How could I say to these folks that I did nothing to try and help their kids along the way?

Although the safe injection site (SIS) will help somewhat, I cannot imagine an addict living in Eastview or Glendale, extremely desperate for a fix, walking to the hospital to do his deed.

If they will shoot up in a bathroom stall without a door on it, they will shoot up wherever it is quick and convenient. Even from downtown, the walk to the hospital is too far if you are desperate. I first supported the decision for that location because if there was a problem, help would be there within seconds, but then I thought about the distances folks would have to travel to use these services.

One SIS is a small Band-Aid on a large sore, because addicts live throughout the city. Those in trouble will still always closet themselves at the most convenient location. So if we as a city are going to do anything, we will need to do more than one location or admit defeat and go home. The cost of multiple manned locations will be extremely high, so I come to the point of asking again, what is the value of a human life?

This is the first instalment of a five-part debate.

Chris Salomons is the kitchen co-ordinator at Potters Hands.

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