Prevention Point Philadelphia celebrates 30 years of providing harm reduction services

The 30th Anniversary Celebration was hosted at Globe Dye Works on Oct. 18, 2022. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

The 30th Anniversary Celebration was hosted at Globe Dye Works on Oct. 18, 2022. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

Prevention Point Philadelphia celebrated its 30th anniversary Tuesday night.

Since July 1992, the Kensington-based organization has provided resources for people affected by poverty and drug use.

It was founded by Jon Paul Hammond, who focused on what the community needed, including hiring people from the neighborhood. Hammond died in 2010. According to the Philadelphia Gay News, he worked to bring awareness to harm reduction, including pressing Mayor Ed Rendell to sign an executive order allowing drug users to carry syringes.

For the first time in program’s 30-year history, Prevention Point Philadelphia says its collected more used syringes than clean ones this year. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
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At the anniversary celebrations, Co-founder José DeMarco said the organization has kept Hammond’s spirit alive throughout the years.

“It’s taken harm reduction to places that’s much further than condoms or clean syringes,” DeMarco said. “He realizes that treating people as harm reduction, giving people a place to shower that are homeless, giving people a bathroom to use, clothing, people, all of these things are harm reduction.”

Displays were set up to encourage attendees to donate to Prevention Point Philadelphia, including some art for sale at Globe Dye Works. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

PPP says it has provided services to over 36,000 people in the last 12 months. That’s more than three times the amount seen in 2019. Executive Director José Benitez said the organization focuses on building connections with the people it serves.

“What we’ve done is basically asked our participants, ‘What do you want? What’s next?’ And they’re the ones that draw the map for us,” Benitez said. “We don’t make this stuff up. They’re the ones that said we want a shelter. We want a low barrier shelter where we can come in and out, and we can feel safe at night and lay our heads down, and get some refuge from the street.”

PPP Executive Director José Benitez spoke on the organizations work the past three decades. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
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PPP provides food, medical services, and other resources for people seeking aid. The Drop-in Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and provides case management, mail services, D&A referrals, specialized surveys, clothing, and hygiene products distribution.

WHYY’s Cherri Gregg emceed the 30th Anniversary Celebration. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

The nonprofit has brought in more used needles than it has distributed this year, a first in the organization’s history. Nearly 9 million new syringes from the nonprofit were distributed, but 10 million used ones were turned in.

Syringe exchange programs work to provide active users with clean needles to lower the risk of disease through contaminated needles. PPP collects syringes both at their main building in Kensington and through a mobile service.

Displays were set up to encourage attendees to donate to Prevention Point Philadelphia, including some art for sale at Globe Dye Works. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24-hour hotline that offers referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Call 1-800-662-HELP for more information.

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