Atlanta Harm Reduction: Prevention as the First Response

Dear CFC Community,

There are some places where people are warned never to go, known for violence, drug traffic, and poverty.  For those who have not grown up in these environments we are taught to fear and/or condemn people who live there.  This is not true of everyone.  There are some s/heroes who “see the faces at the bottom of the well,” and offer a rope AND a bucket of food and water.  Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition (AHRC) is the rescue organization where prevention is key and care is unconditional.  This week the CFC will spotlight AHRC because they need our support to keep their doors open.

ahrc - new logo - now9

Atlanta Harm Reduction offers the only consistent syringe exchange program in the southeast region.  According to Mona Phillips, a founding member, their early advocacy work began with people living with HIV/AIDS.  During direct action campaigns to raise awareness about Atlantans needing access to affordable pharmaceutical drugs in 1996 they started seeing syringes on the ground.  Recognizing this marker to mean resurgence in heroin use they literally followed the syringes and the word on the street to English Avenue and set up shop there.


AHR has been in English Avenue since 1998 providing: FREE HIV testing, counseling, and connection with additional resources; FREE meals and hot showers a few days a week; FREE access computers and internet; FREE clothes closet access; FREE counseling for people with addictions; FREE Hepatitis A and B vaccines; FREE drug paraphernalia to stop the spread of AIDS, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C; FREE condoms and counseling for sex workers everyday. The syringe exchange program, assumed to target people who use recreational drugs only, is also important for people with diabetes to inject insulin as well as transgender people for hormone injections.

Where others choose to avoid the basic needs of so many people in this area because they don’t approve of their choices…Atlanta Harm Reduction rushed in.

While there have been articles, essays, videos, book chapters published about Atlanta Harm Reduction, state and county budget cuts make “FREE” hard to maintain and they are on the verge of having to close their doors.

AHRC sees 40-60 people each of the four days they are open, most come on Tuesday and Thursday because it will likely be their first shower or their last shower of the week.  While they receive support from the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Panera Bread, they still had to lay off staff and cut their days of service to four days.  They rely on volunteers and the good will of people, but many are uncomfortable with the fact that AHRC encourages people with addictions to get rehabilitation but refuses to criminalize them.  Marshall Rancifer says he has been effective getting more than 350 people successfully into rehab because AHRC is there when people are ready—no judgment.

I have had the privilege of spending time with Marshall Rancifer, Mona Bennett, and Verna Gaines, and a long-time student volunteer, Danielle Sharpe, and what I know is by supporting their work I am supporting communities in great need.  I admire the work Atlanta Harm Reduction is doing to stop the spread of HIV and I deeply respect that they do not turn anyone away.

So we are asking our CFC community to consider a one-time or monthly tax deductible donation of $5, $25, $100 or to volunteer your time.  This Friday come out to their Open House Fundraiser from 10am-4pm at AHRC where they will be providing tours of the facility.  Atlanta needs Harm Reduction and AHRC needs your support.  Donate, volunteer, spread the word!!! Do what you do best.

Thank You,

Crunk Feminist Collective



6 thoughts on “Atlanta Harm Reduction: Prevention as the First Response

  1. This is an awesome article! Thanks for lifting up AHRC. Hopefully I will see you Friday. One thing I wanted to mention is that Mona’s last name is Bennett. Also, she emailed me this wish list recently and I wanted to share it here–Everybody can help! Thanks. Love, Mara

    Outreach Supplies
    1 cc/mL 27G – 29G x ½” syringes

    ½ cc/mL 27G – 29G x ½” syringes

    Alcohol Swabs/Pads

    Band-Aids – all sizes

    A 7-passenger to 15-passenger van

    Four [4] 4’ to 6’ folding tables

    20 folding chairs

    Gasoline for our Mobile Health Unit [MHU]. $250.00 fills up our MHU. It will take $80.00 to fill up any van that we get.

    Paper Bags – #2 and #6 sizes.

    Coffee, creamer, sugar, and artificial sweetener – AHRC is known in the community as a place to get a cup of coffee. This is what brings people through the front door.

    Toilet Paper

    Paper Napkins

    8 oz. Styrofoam cups

    Round and lidded Styrofoam plates

    Plastic forks, spoons, and knives

    Men’s Clothing – outer wear and underwear. Women’s clothing is welcome; we have an urgent need for men’s clothing.

    Underwear and shoes for all!

    Travel-sized lotion and other travel-sized toiletries

    Washer and Dryer – Thank you for helping us replace the towels! Now, we need to launder them.

    Money – All financial donations are welcome from pocket change to stocks and bonds. Talk to us about planned giving.

    Commercial copier and toner – AHRC makes about 10,000 copies a month and our Canon ImageRunner 3570 copier died.

    Two [2] Laser Printers and toner – We do a lot of printing and laser printers are cheaper to operate. Our current Imagerunner 1310 laser printer needs toner.

    Printer cartridges – We need HP cartridges 56 – Yellow, 57 – Black, 58 – Red? for an HP DeskJet 5650; 564 Red, Blue/Cyan, Yellow, and 564 XL – Black for an HP OfficeJet 4620; and Two [2] sets of 88 Cyan/Blue, Magenta, Yellow, and Black XL HP cartridges for two [2] HP OfficeJet L7780 All-In-One printer/fax/scanners.

    Postage Stamps – Forever Ever? Forever Ever!

    Copier Paper – mostly white, but we can use a few reams of colored paper

    Pens and Pencils

    Letter-sized Manila Folders

    9” x 12” Manila Envelopes

    #10 Business-sized Envelopes

    Scotch-style Adhesive Tape

  2. The lowering of thresholds offers participants and providers the most effective means to provide/access life saving services. Going into the environment, uninvited asking the crucial questions: “What are the problems and how can I help?,” positions the participant as the expert. Always reminding everyone that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” AHRC serves these precious people, whom the world has discarded, the ones most in need and deserving. These mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons…while our heads are turned by “quantity confused with abundance and information with knowledge(*),” harm reduction becomes a moral imperative. No?

    *attributed to Tom Waits

  3. Wow, where do I begin. First of all I think this initiative is incredible and righteous on all levels. A lot of people squirm at the sight of addicts or overt “poor people” but offer nothing but judgment and disgust. I believe this program is social justice personified as it roots itself in communities that could use help and guidance without judgment or legal condemnation. I believe HIV/AIDS testing has always been a good way to boost sexual awareness and responsibility. This is especially important for blacks because Atlanta has an immense African American population with over 60%. Statistics says that Georgia and metro Atlanta ranked 4th in the nation in new AIDS cases. This is an epidemic especially true for black women in Atlanta. The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta says that African American women make up a startling 87% of AIDS cases within all women in Atlanta. Drug and prostitution in the Atlanta area is high, affect African American women disproportionately. I am sad to hear that this organization will possibly shut down. I believe this does a disservice to the black community, particularly African American women. The Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition (AHRC) has taken revolutionary steps in helping the black community. Their techniques allow for people to move in anonymity free from judgment and persecution. This is important for people who would otherwise shy away from HIV/AIDS testing. This is method is helpful for African American women. Currently one out of four new HIV/AIDS cases are women but roughly two in three of these cases are African American women. Research strongly suggests that poverty is intimately connected to low quality health care thus providing a forum of health programs including sexual transmitting infections. Another fact is that African Americans are most likely to have sexual relations with one another than other races. If men versus women ration were introduced as it stands women in the black community heavily out number African American men. This limits African American women to a limited amount of sex partners keeping STI’s in the black community in the black community so to speak.

  4. The analysis here is awesome and thank you so much for raising awareness. We also very much need financial support to keep the doors open so AHRC can continue this work. Please donate what you can today so that we can still be here with people tomorrow. You can donate easily and securely at the following link-

    Thank you!

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