If we can't get people suffering addiction the treatment they need quickly, if we can't give them a roof over their heads, if we can't give the neighborhood around Kensington and Allegheny a break from the daily trauma, if we can't keep people alive, what do we do now?
After this column posted on Philly.com on Friday, Lauren Hitt, a spokeswoman for Mayor Kenney, said the city would shut the building and dispatch social workers to help those inside. Later Friday, the city's Department of Licenses & Inspections checked the building. On Saturday, the owner had a crew seal the former church's doors. On both days, city social workers went to the site to offer help to those inside, but no one accepted their offer.
The Narcan that the librarians keep in a drawer at the circulation desk has sat undisturbed for almost two weeks - longer than anyone at the library can remember since April, when they decided to be trained in the overdose-reversing spray.
There's an opioid epidemic in Philly. But there is a catastrophe on the lawn of McPherson Park. And right now, the best hope for the people there is a young librarian and a security guard who watches for overdoses from the library's historic terrace like a ship captain scanning the sea for icebergs.
Mike Newall has been writing for the Inquirer since 2010. Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., he has been writing about Philadelphia crime, courts, politics, and neighborhoods since 2003. Before joining the Inquirer, he was a staff writer and columnist for Philadelphia Weekly and Philadelphia City Paper. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and dog.