Vancouver and Philadelphia are both facing overdose epidemics—but one city has found a way to keep people alive.

26 Feb 2019

Oscar crouches in a small shack near a muddy embankment in the Kensington “badlands” of Philadelphia. Decorating the roof of his makeshift home are nearly a half-dozen plastic syringes, their needles embedded at sharp angles in the wood. Now 47, Oscar was born and raised in this neighborhood. He became addicted to heroin and “started this sad lifestyle,” he says, when he was 24.

Philadelphia has been walloped by the opioid epidemic, and Kensington—an impoverished neighborhood of low-slung row houses and deeply pitted streets—is its epicenter. When I ask how many people that he personally knew have died from an overdose, Oscar replies, “I lost count,” then clarifies: “I don’t say that figuratively—I did. And the sad story is that they get younger and younger.” He thinks it’s been dozens, at the least.

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