Addressing individual and community health through a harm reduction lens means creating opportunities for people to make empowered decisions about their own lives. Harm reductionists recognize that judgment only perpetuates the cycles of stigma and shame that prevent so many people from accessing services or entering recovery. We recently received a wonderful message from a former participant who testifies to the power of harm reduction, and he has generously offered to share a part of his journey.
Michael Spencer sent us a direct message in response to an Instagram story saying, "Omgosh, I used to sleep in that basement for two years. Thank you for all you do... I'm never better, just bought a house, please tell Silvana [our Associate Executive Director] I said hello. She always loved me and helped me out over the years and please let her know I'm doing great. She'd be happy to know that her helping people does pay off."
Michael followed up with a photo from his wedding day. "Silvana will never believe that pic," Michael said.
Michael lived in Kensington from 2008 to 2017. "Only two years of that was off the streets," he said. "I spent 18 months in and out of state road jails, and the rest in abandoned houses and crack houses."
While he was on the streets, Michael was stabbed and nearly died while he was selling crack near Somerset Station. He survived the wound, as well as seven opioid overdoses. With these massive odds stacked against him, he now says that "every day is a blessing."
"I went to Kirkbride in the summer of '17 after I had endocarditis and cellulitis in my legs. I spent three months in a Kensington hospital on IV medicine... It was a Prevention Point staff that drove me to the hospital to treat my endocarditis and start my recovery journey," he remembers.
"The most important service for me while I was out there was the needle exchange. It helped me survive and stay safe… And then when PPP opened the shelter they got me in ASAP."
"I have had the same job for four years now. I moved to Delaware with bad credit and no money or possessions. Now I have a car with under 60,000 miles on it, I have great credit, and most of my debt is paid off," he remarks.
"I married the love of my life, Codi, and we just bought a house in the woods with an acre. Life has never been better & youse definitely helped me get here."
Prevention Point staff were thrilled to hear Michael's news. Everyone deserves to recover in a way that works for them. Everyone deserves to be housed, to be healthy, to be loved.