Letter: Steady Collective provides lifesaving services

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Our city is doing a great disservice to its residents by not standing by organizations like Steady Collective.

Steady Collective is a harm-reduction organization that distributes clean needles, fentanyl test kits, naloxone and referrals for treatment on request. They also collect used needles and dispose of them safely. The approach used by organizations like Steady is evidence-based and endorsed by the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association.

This approach is also lifesaving. This year alone, 62 reversals have been reported to Firestorm [Books & Coffee] (the location Steady operates out of). Those are 62 people who had access to naloxone because of Steady, 62 deaths that were prevented, 62 people whose lives were saved because of Steady’s work.

So why is the city working to shut it down?

In early August, the city government issued a notice of zoning violation to Steady, along with Kairos West and 12 Baskets, on the basis that they are operating like a shelter. The notice has since been rescinded for Kairos and 12 Baskets, but Steady is forced to continue to put time and resources into resisting attempts by the city, specifically Asheville’s Principal Planner Shannon Tuch and interim City Manager Cathy Ball, to shut them down.

The services provided by Steady Collective are, in fact, not the services that a shelter would provide. They are instructional and clinical in nature — and lifesaving. For a town that touts its “progressiveness,” the city of Asheville has shown once again that it is only willing to take the measures that will make our town pretty for its tourists — not livable for its residents.

— McKel Cox

Editor’s note: The city provided a response and update in the Oct. 24 Xpress, which can be found in an editor’s note at avl.mx/5ex.


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11 thoughts on “Letter: Steady Collective provides lifesaving services

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    So why can’t the INDIVIDUALs who keep shooting up illegal drugs gain some self control to just STOP ? We should not need such a service in any neighborhood! These people need some tough love not coddling. Sorry if that offends you…

  2. Jason Williams

    Oh, Mr Enlightened one. Have you ever been addicted to anything? Especially opiates? It’s not as easy to kick the habit as you might think. It’s not like putting the remote down, or closing the refrigerator door. Stopping usually requires lots of counselling and treatment. Something that I believe the Steady Collective also offers, or at least can put you on a path towards. Yes some people can go cold turkey, but it’s rare. In the meantime The Steady Collective provides clean needles to those that use in order to prevent the spread of AIDS and other diseases. I bet that you can even argue that 10 cents spent on a clean needle is better than thousands of dollars (of taxpayer money) spent on the treatment of a person with AIDS.

  3. jason

    Steady Collective is not wanted in West Asheville. They have brought too much crime and problems “serving” these wonderful addicts who have no intention of quitting or changing their behaviors. If you continue to feed rats, the rat population increases. It’s time for Steady Collective to pack it up and LEAVE West Asheville. Just because a small vocal group sings the praises of this organization, there is a a silent majority of West Asheville citizens who are against bringing this into our neighborhood. The citizens of West Asheville have worked hard to create a safe environment for children, pedestrians and pets for Steady Collective to ruin. PLEASE LEAVE!

    • Mark Wonnacott

      Is comparing a group of people, many of whom are drug users, but some of whom just care for or love people who are addicted, to rats really the best starting point for a conversation?

      Maybe Steady and groups like them do concentrate crime. I’ve seen no research on the question. In the mean time, they also save people from AIDS, hepatitis, and OD. These events have costs, too, which we would all be forced to bear. Higher hospital costs, less available social services, longer ER wait times… The list could go on.

      Since we have to pay anyway until we can figure out and treat the root causes of addiction, why not pay in the way that lets people live?

  4. SpareChange

    Playing the “progressive” card in arguments to support the good folks at 610 Haywood, has gotten tiresome and ineffective. It is also politically and intellectually dishonest. As someone who has been politically active in a wide range of left-leaning causes, candidacies, etc. for more than 40 years, I must have missed the part where it is considered “progressive” to undermine the interests of working class residents and businesses, in the process of focusing on the real or imagined needs and interests of a small population of largely transient drug addicts.

    Which is the more critical population in any agenda of broader political and social change? If we allow well intentioned, but ultimately misled, do-good liberalism to just run amok in a pool of guilty feelings and self righteousness, and in the process pit those who have achieved some economic and social stability in their lives, against those who have at least temporarily lost the ability to just keep themselves and their live intact, then we have lost sight of any broader agenda rooted in the objectives of greater social, political, and economic equality. Need we continue to wonder why the left has lost so much of the working class to Trumpism?

    Yes, we should have drug treatment on demand on a national basis, and safe places for the addicted — especially for those who have some roots and are actual residents in the area, and who are at least looking to better their situation. But the social costs, and the fallout from higher incidences of crime, and the general unease of real sense of greater insecurity that comes from this population congregating in a particular area, should not be foisted, or fall disproportionately upon a neighborhood and residents who have worked long and hard to convert what was once referred to as “Worst Asheville” into “West Asheville.” Let’s not pit the interests of those who have a little, against those who have lost control of their lives and have nothing. There’s nothing “progressive” about that.

    • Jason Williams

      Where is an appropriate place for a program like this to be located?

      • SpareChange

        Well, that is the precise question that should have been asked prior to free needles being distributed at 610 Haywood — but it wasn’t. It would seem that the primary reason needles are being dispensed there is because that is where Firestorm happens to be located, and they provided the space for it. It is in immediate proximity to Trinity Church, two elementary schools (Waldorf & Rainbow Community), a middle school (Omega), several businesses, and a neighborhood of family homes.

        I absolutely understand that the conventional wisdom among advocates of needle programs is that they should be set up in proximity to “hot spots” of drug use. However, we also need to be alert to the fact that the very establishment and location of such a program, combined with the provision of food, a gathering place, etc. are the very factors most likely to create a “hot spot” to begin with. That is what has happened in this instance, and that is why many are appropriately concerned.

        As I said, I am not opposed to the existence of such programs. But given the obvious tradeoffs and impacts for the real stakeholders in the neighborhood, I do not think they should exist somewhere mainly because a given individual or small group of people, however well intended, take it upon themselves to just establish one absent the input and approval of the appropriate local governmental and medical authorities.

  5. Enlightened Enigma

    It would be great if they would move it over to Biltmore Village,,,that way the addicts could entertain the tourists there and they could move 12 Baskets there too…

  6. Lillian Warren

    Can’t expect empathy and compassion from a people who ran the original residents out of here, including my ancestors, at the point of a gun.

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