Kensington is a neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that is going through an opioid crisis that no government official seems to care to fix. Kensington is the largest open-air narcotics market for heroin on the East Coast. Some addicts come from all over, while some may never leave “zombie land.”
Kensington, Philadelphia, also known as “zombie land,” is currently going through the worst opioid crisis in the United States. A drive through Kensington is horrifying. The streets are covered in trash, needles, feces and other things that are not suitable for human life. Missing posters cover every brick wall there is in the neighborhoods. Dealers are out in the open, calling out brand names and even giving out free samples of their products. Many people smoke crack, meth or inject heroin. The bodies of these people lay out in the street either high on drugs or dead. People sit everywhere, limp, and nodding off with a needle in their hand. Kensington looks like a scene out of a horror film.
Once a blue-collar neighborhood, the devastation of Kensington came from the deindustrialization of the neighborhood in the 1950s. White people fled to live in suburban towns while Hispanics and African-Americans moved in. Lack of investments from the city turned this once-pleasant place into a drug market. Houses transformed into drug dens while factories became places to shoot-up and rail-yards into homes for people without them. People did not have the finances to move out of Kensington.
Philadelphia County has the highest overdose rate of any of the ten most populous counties in America. Kensington is part of the largest cluster of overdose deaths in the city. Many of the addicts who come do not leave alive. In 2017, 236 people fatally overdosed in Kensington. Users on social media are shocked at the lack of effort from government officials. Over the years, the local government enforced clean-up projects but, unfortunately, the situation is still the same. In late 2016 and early 2017, Philadelphia’s progressive mayor, Jim Kenney, created a task force of addiction experts, doctors, social workers and Drug Enforcement Agency agents to come up with a plan to decrease the overdose deaths in the city. They planned to distribute Narcan, a medicine used to reverse an opioid overdose, at a wider scale and air media campaigns about the risk of opioids. This is a public health crisis with no right answer. By giving addicts Narcan, you are enabling their drug addiction. Not giving the medicine to them is writing their death sentence. Law enforcement and medical personnel respond to this crisis by handing out syringes and covering up dead bodies. It is not an easy issue, as it will take years and a lot of funding to reverse the damage done.
A park in Kensington, also known as “Needle Park,” is where most addicts go to shoot up. In pictures provided by an Instagram profile under the name of “kensingtonbeach_,” you can see people sticking needles into their neck, hands, arms, legs and ears. In a place where drugs are cheap, addicts do not want to leave. They are offered treatment but refuse; many find it easier to be homeless since they get food, water and other necessities from people trying to do a good deed but others are frail and malnourished. The saddest part is families are searching for loved ones. Sometimes bodies go unclaimed and funerals proceed without the remains. People are memorialized all over the neighborhood, while families mourn their loss. Overall, Kensington needs to be nation-wide news. I urge anyone who reads this to research the neighborhood. While this crisis may take years to fix, I need to see more effort from local officials in Philadelphia. There is no excuse for Kensington to be the way it is at this very moment. Human life is valuable but their lives are not valued here. I hope to see some type of change soon. The first step is to raise awareness of the situation