"We do whole-person care."
Lauren
Office Volunteer
Sharissa, ATC’s Volunteer Coordinator (left) and Lauren, long-time Office Volunteer (right)

Lauren, longtime office volunteer and Sharissa, ATC’s Volunteer Coordinator talk about what harm reduction really means.

0:00
0:00
Read Transcript
Close x

Transcript

Sharissa: I know in the work that we do, when we’re explaining it to folks who aren’t really familiar with the issue of homelessness and youth homelessness in San Francisco and our method of practising the harm reduction model, we get a lot of like, “Are you enabling them?” Does that come up for you in the work that you do as well? And how do you handle those conversations?

Lauren: In answering your question, it depends on the person. A lot of people ask or assume that we’re enabling and the only way I can explain is it’s just harm reduction. That’s all it is. It’s reducing the instances of diseases, of transmission rates, and hopefully connecting with people on a level where once they are trusting, maybe they want to seek recovery services. And that’s the ultimate goal. Some people look at it as enabling; we look at it as this huge opportunity to work with people and help save lives on the nursing front. That’s on the nursing front.

In nursing, we do whole person care, right? So we’re trying to care for every single aspect and you bring up a good point. It’s like, “Why are you injecting heroin?” “Well, because I’m depressed, and because I have PTSD, and because I’m marginally housed and I’ve lived on the streets of San Francisco for 19 years.” And you start to open up and you’re able to have these conversations with people and then you learn a lot about people. You learn what’s good for them, what’s bad for them. You really are able to fully care for them and ask them, “What do you need from me?”

And I think ATC does that really well. The counselors here (and the whole staff), but the counselors are amazing in really pinpointing what somebody needs—like just asking, “What do you need today? What can I do for you right now? Do you need us to go talk and get dinner? Do you need a pair of shoes?” Basic Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: food, shelter, water, people to listen to you and care. It seems really simple when you break it down but there’s a lot of people who, when they ask these questions, they just don’t— it’s not that they don’t get it, but they’ve never thought of it in our perspective before, I think.