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Rendell and developer try opening illegal drug house in Kensington. What’s safe about that?

Now that developers have succeeded in making Philadelphia one of the most gentrified cities in America, they’re partnering with current and former city officials like Ed Rendell to open a drug house for mostly white addicts. 

Rendell and Safehouse, the non-profit he chairs, are finalizing a deal to get a free lease from a major developer to open a Safe Injection Site. The facility, which is my view is like a city-sanctioned drug house, would be located at Kensington and Allegheny. Mayor Jim Kenney and District Attorney Larry Krasner support it, even though it’s against the law. They support it even though black people are still locked up for running drug houses. They support it even though many Philadelphians–including longtime Kensington residents–are against it.

Rendell is the same guy who demonized black people over crack, both as Mayor and District Attorney. But now that most of the people overdosing on heroin and other opioids are white, Rendell is in favor of opening the illegal site. The owners of Philadelphia Suburban Development Corp., one of the top developers in the region, is helping Rendell to do it. Coincidentally, developers are also helping to push people of color out of their communities.

Is race behind the push to open illegal Safe Injection Sites?

They say the opening the site is all about saving lives, because while people are inside shooting dope, medical personnel will stand there and nudge them so they don’t overdose. In the worst cases, medical personnel will administer the anti-overdose drug, Naloxone. Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who supports the idea, told me it’s not the same as a regular drug house. 

Listen to Solomon’s interview with Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner on Praise 107.9

I guess he has to say that, because back in the day, when black people ran injection sites, they called them shooting galleries, and Pookie and them would nudge people awake too—as soon as they ran out of money. 

Of course there was one major difference. Pookie and them got locked up. Then the DA’s office took their house and sold it.   

In fact, from 2002 to 2014, the DA’s office took $72 million in houses, cars and cash from thousands of Philadelphians. Some people were guilty. Some were just accused.  And here’s the kicker—Krasner told me most of those people will never get their stuff back, even though they did basically the same thing Rendell and his developer friends want to do in Kensington.

That’s wrong. That’s illegal, and I’m mad about it. The only thing different about these addicts is their complexion. 

Where are the other city leaders on the question of Safe Injection Sites?

For now, Councilman Mark Squilla, who represents the district where the Safe Injection Site would be located, says he’s against it. Many people in the neighborhood are, too. 

But Rendell wants to do it anyway. He says if they lock someone up for it, they should come for him first. 

On that point, I agree. If Rendell opens this illegal drug house … Lock. Him. Up.

Photo: Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who also served as District Attorney and Mayor of Philadelphia. By Center for American Progess / Flickr Creative Commons

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Solomon Jones is an Essence bestselling author and award-winning columnist. He is the creator and editor of Solomonjones.com and host of Your Voice weekdays from 10 to Noon on Praise 107.9 radio. Click here to learn more about Solomon.

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