Heroin Room Opens In Church Illgally: good idea for your

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 9 May 1999 21:55:35 -0700 (PDT)


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Would settings for injecting heroin under medical supervision benefit
homeless people in your community?  Why or why not?

Do acts of civil disobedience to secure clean needles for IV drug users
help build poor people's movements?  Why or why not?

See related article below:

FWD  Reuters - May 04, 1999


By Paul Tait

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An illegal heroin
injecting room opened in a church in
Sydney's Kings Cross red light district as
authorities Tuesday grappled with the
invocation of ``church sanctuary'' to defy
Australian drug law.

The ``Tolerance Room'' or ``T-Room,''
based on Swiss and Dutch models, defiantly
opened its doors in the Uniting Church
Wayside Chapel, a run-down haven for
Sydney's homeless and desperate.

``If we are closed down, we will open
again,'' Reverend Ray Richmond, the
chapel's pastor, told reporters Tuesday.

``If our frontline people are removed or
intimidated, others will take their place.''

The T Room opened briefly late Monday,
attracting a handful of heroin addicts and a
large media presence, which forced some
addicts to inject in a grubby alley nearby.

It marks the first time Australian drug addicts
have been offered a safe environment to inject
drugs using clean equipment and under
medical supervision.

It is also in direct defiance of Australian Prime
Minister John Howard's ``zero tolerance''
drug policy and puts church leaders and health
workers who run the room at risk of arrest.

Under New South Wales state law, aiding the
self-administration of an illegal drug carries a
penalty of two years jail, a A$2,200
(US$1,452) fine or both.

The T-Room plans to open for about two
hours a day, three days a week for six weeks,
at a cost of about A$25,000, said Tony
Trimmingham, one of the founders.

Addicts are given a pack containing a small
syringe, a plastic spoon and swabs and must
clean the laminex tables before and after
injecting the drugs they bring to the chapel.

On the walls are no smoking signs and lists of
rules for users -- no dealing or exchanging,
no sharing or assisting, no new users or users
under 18 and inject in arms and legs only.

Howard, whose government has almost
doubled its spending on its
rehabilitation-based fight against drug
addiction to A$510 million (US$337 million)
million, condemned the ``T-Room'' and said
it was up to state officials to exercise the law.

New South Wales Attorney-General Jeff
Shaw suggested he would not direct police to
act against the chapel at least until after a state
drugs summit set for May 17.

``Rather than have this matter decided in our
criminal courts...let's talk it through and work
out what an appropriate response is,'' Shaw

Trimmingham said the T-Room was opened
in a church so supporters could claim church
sanctuary and supposedly avoid arrest or
prosecution. He denied it condoned heroin

``All we are doing is taking people out of the
street where they're injecting publicly,
where's there's no hygiene, there's no
supervision,'' said Trimmingham, whose son
died of an overdose.

Proposals for legal injection rooms have been
voted down in at least three Australian states.
Many unsupervised shooting galleries operate
clandestinely, some in Kings Cross strip

Australia's death toll from heroin overdoses
has soared from 70 in 1979 to 600 in 1997,
according to the latest National Drug and
Alcohol Research Center figures.

(A$1 - US$0.66)


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