Harm Reduction Facilities Save Lives

Harm reduction saves lives

“And that’s why I can’t stand those harm reduction people because they’re turning people into real-life Sméagols out here.” – Ricci Wynne, referring to homeless people

Lately, I’ve seen a new face popping up on my social media feeds. His name is Ricci Lee Wynne, also known as “Raw Ricci,” and he’s gathered quite a following online for his often “raw” and shocking attempts at journalism. The thing is, his videos are primarily him approaching homeless people, often those struggling with addiction, and shaming them. 

Ricci was recently interviewed by Channel 5 with Andrew Callaghan in an interview about harm reduction facilities in San Francisco.

“These non-profits, these harm reduction creeps, are passing it out on the streets…these harm reduction people that have a stranglehold on our city here and our tax money,” Ricci said in the interview.

What we learn about Ricci in this interview is, for starters, he hates harm reduction (except Narcan, the opioid overdose treatment), and he is very loud about it. He doesn’t want to see people with an addiction or homeless people on the streets of San Francisco. It’s “disrespectful,” he says.

Interestingly enough, he comes from a family of criminals, dealers, and drug traffickers. He has even done jail time for it. It suddenly dawned on me that even after rehabilitation and being arrested, he is still taking advantage of people with an addiction, just in a different kind of way.

The people he is now filming are those same people who he once sold drugs to. It’s just another kind of exploitation.

With algorithms putting what they believe you’ll watch, like, and share in front of you, these messages are rapidly filling up social media feeds. They certainly fall into mine, and I purposely try to avoid consuming this kind of negative, conservative messaging about homelessness.

There is no question that Ricci Wynne is exploiting homeless people and is reaping his own benefits from that exploitation. With nearly 90,000 followers on Instagram alone, that internet following has blown up specifically through this “shock value” kind of journalism that draws you in and keeps you watching.

He uses humor by teasing homeless people and videotaping them for the amusement of his audience. What he is doing is wrong. Just from those viral videos, he is spreading the message that it’s okay to point and laugh, to degrade homeless people, treating them like they’re less than human and undeserving of compassion and love. 

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Lydia Bransten of the Gubbio Project, also featured in the interview, showing us how much compassion and love work and that shame does not.

Homelessness has just hit a staggering 10-year record high, and the most recent PIT count shows a 12% increase over the previous year.

The surge reflects the basic unaffordability of housing across the United States. Combine that with the ongoing opioid crisis, and we need love and compassion now more than ever.

Lydia believes offering complimentary services is the best way to get people off the streets, especially those experiencing homelessness for a long time.

The Gubbio Project starts by offering services that are easy to say yes to, such as haircuts, massages, foot care, and vaccines. Eventually, trust is formed, and conversations can happen. Lydia’s approach of love and compassion isn’t just about offering services; it’s also about helping homeless people and those who suffer from addictions start believing that others care about them.

When people like Ricci Wynne spread harmful messages, we need more people like Lydia Bransten to fight against them with powerful messaging that inspires action. Not only do they influence voters, but they also influence people like Antonio Chavez. Antonio is a bike messenger of Lost Soul Courier Collective in the Bay Area, who offers free Narcan delivery 24/7, 7 days a week, anywhere in the city.

Antonio has first-hand experience with drug overdoses that have killed both family members and friends. He learned how addiction can quickly lead to homelessness. Antonio later realized how poorly he treated the people he loved and cared about due to negative messaging like Ricci Wynne dumps into the world. In the interview, he shares how he was conditioned to think negatively about people with an addiction until addiction took him too. “How human we all are.” 

Now Antonio is watching the harm reduction facilities disappear in the Bay Area. He knows it saves lives. Everyone knows it. The question circulating is – Are those lives worth saving? The answer is yes.


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Jocelyn Figueroa

     

Jocelyn Figueroa studied Creative Non-Fiction at The New School and is a blogger and freelance writer based out of New York City. Formerly homeless, she launched her own blog discussing shelter life in New York City. Today, Jocelyn is on a mission to build connections through storytelling and creative writing. Check out her book about homelessness at https://ko-fi.com/scartissueproject

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