Tag Archives: Alex Zielinski

Harm reduction for the 21st century

Needles collected for dispersal at the Syringe Exchange Program at Outside In. Photo by Kristina Wright

Needles collected for dispersal at the Syringe Exchange Program at Outside In. Photo by Kristina Wright

By Alex Zielinski, Staff Writer

On Nov. 15, the Harm Reduction Coalition’s national conference came to Portland for the first time. Covering topics from political shifts in drug treatment to overcoming drug user stigma, the conference touched on a variety of issues related to national drug use. To get a better grasp on the breadth of harm reduction and its current role in the local and national spheres, Street Roots spoke with Allan Clear, who has been the director of HRC since 1995.

Alex Zielinski: Can you define harm reduction? It seems to encompass a wide variety of areas, from health care to legal policy.

Allan Clear: Harm reduction, or at least what we’ve done with it, is looking not at drug prevention or treatment, but focusing on people who are currently dealing with drug-related effects.

A.Z.: How does Portland play into harm reduction practices from a national perspective?

A.C.: While this is the first time our national conference has come to Portland, this city is ahead of the rest of the country in a lot of ways. Specifically, the Syringe Exchange Program, the easiest example of harm reduction. It’s so exciting to be here, the birthplace of the program in the country.

A.Z.: And how is harm reduction treated at the national level?

A.C.: We’ve seen a big and national change in the federal government’s take on harm reduction in the last four years. Primarily in drug, public health and law enforcement efforts. Under President Obama, we’ve begun to see this change, and we’re hoping it will continue now that he’s re-elected. He’s put a big focus on overdose prevention programs, which most leaders won’t touch. Continue reading

The Portland World Cup brings together immigrants for community and competition

By Alex Zielinski, Staff Writer

It’s early evening at Northeast Portland’s Fernhill Park and the manicured soccer fields are swarming with cleat-clad players. As the hot summer sun lowers to a tolerable temperature, young boys, assembled as a team, lace up their matching Nike cleats, watching a nearby group of teenage girls juggle a soccer ball while checking their smart phones.

In the middle of the hoard of minivan-escorted athletes, squeezed onto half a field, one group stands out from the rest. With an average age of 25 to 30, these older players may appear less equipped for the game: Some wear beat-up sneakers without shin guards; others are dragged onto the field to scrimmage wearing jeans. But their enthusiasm is infectious.

“Buenos días!” the players shout at other teammates as they arrive, somehow bursting with energy after long days of physical work or waiting in long lines for unattained work. Neighborhood friends bring their families to watch, carting water coolers and lawn chairs, cheering and joking with the group. On the field, some players dribble the ball easily around the defense, while others stumble with their footwork. Regardless of talent, these guys are clearly having the most fun of any team at the park. Continue reading