We Have to Talk

I know you are already aware of the opioid crisis sweeping the nation. We have all heard about this crisis being met with compassion, imagination, and a sole desire to save lives. It is the right response, but it has been COMPLETELY different from the response to a drug crisis that was largely black- the crack epidemic.

America responded to the crack epidemic by declaring a “War on Drugs,” so Americans understood that addicts were dangerous enemies we should fear, vilify, and jail. Likewise, the vast majority of the funding to address the War on Drugs went toward building prisons, hiring law enforcement, and incarcerating addicts.  Crack addicts (predominately black) faced mandatory minimum prison sentences that were 100 times longer than the sentences of (predominately white) cocaine addicts. Public opinion followed suit: Much of America shamed and dehumanized the victims of the crack epidemic -- dismissing them as crackheads. 

But now that the addiction epidemic has a white, suburban and rural American face, we aren’t using war language. We are responding by declaring an “Opioid Crisis.” See how even the language is different? One was an epidemic inspiring a "war", the other a crisis. When we declare a war, we have enemies to fear. When we declare a crisis, we have victims to help. 

But there is more information that we are not being given, yall. " [We’ve got a] 267 percent increase in heroin overdoses in whites, but what we aren’t talking about is we’ve got over a 200 percent increase in overdoses in blacks. So this epidemic is really affecting everyone and the solutions have to affect everyone also.” Yall. Please read that sentence again. I have been duped and I am pissed. In all the talk about the opioid crisis, I have only heard of white families. I keep thinking to myself about the injustice of the response to this crisis vs the crack crisis, but here is what I know now... We are in danger of perpetuating racial injustice RIGHT NOW! 

The US Surgeon helps us understand the inequity this way, "He gave the example of diversion programs, such as drug treatment courts, that give some defendants the choice of jail or treatment. He said too often, these programs make decisions about who gets in based on someone’s chance of succeeding at recovery.

For example, those with family support systems and resources such as housing are sometimes favored for treatment.

'The affluent and the non-minorities are going to be the ones that have the best chance of being successful and the minorities and the less affluent are not,' he said.

Adams challenged the audience to support programs that use their resources equitably to give everyone suffering from addiction a chance at recovery.

Though the realization that we are perpetuating inequality right now makes me angry, having this information gives us the opportunity to turn the tide, to get it right this time! 

Today, we are partnering with Together Rising to participate in a Love Flashmob to give hope to those who are struggling with addiction. We are going to give to a white community who is fighting the opioid epidemic, but we are also going to give to a black community who has long been on the frontlines of responding with love and hope to addicts when society was declaring war. 

Meet Hope on Harvest Hill and Martha's Place: 

Hope on Harvest Hill is located in Rochester, NH. Here is how it got started: Kerry’s son had just suffered an overdose when, in 2015, a young pregnant woman who was homeless and addicted to opioids came into the prenatal center for help. With such a severe lack of resources in the community, Kerry had nowhere to send her. Kerry’s helplessness became too heavy to bear on her own- so she reached out to her community to ask for help. 

Kerry got on Facebook and wrote something like: I’m brokenhearted. Anyone else? She waited. Then her friend Colene, a local doctor, responded with: Me too. I’ve been desperate to do something for two years. 

Then Colene did something extraordinary! She said: I have a home we can use. I’ll move my family into something smaller. And she did. She moved her family of four, plus two pets, out of her own home.  She made room. 

Kerry gathered the other brokenhearted troops in Rochester and together they renovated the home and turned it into Hope on Haven Hill – a safe, beautiful, nurturing, highly structured home where pregnant and addicted women recover with their children and begin again.  Where addicted women can get well without fear of their kids being taken away.   


But then we learned this.  In the entire state of New Hampshire, there are zero recovery-centered transitional houses where a woman can live with her baby.  None. That means women who have done the grueling work of becoming sober remain in danger without safe housing to continue their journey of recovery. So, we are going to buy these women a house! This house: 


We are buying this house for Kerry and for all the women who right now are sick, pregnant, and alone. We will make it so Kerry can open that front door and say: WE HAVE ROOM FOR YOU AND YOUR PRECIOUS BABY. YOU ARE NOT ALONE ANYMORE. COME IN. THERE IS ROOM. This house will become the FIRST transitional home of its kind in New Hampshire! 

But thats not all we are going to do. Because we are people who do our best to model the hope we want to see unleashed in the world, we are also going to help some women in Baltimore- the women of Martha's Place. 

Meet Ms. Amelia. When Ms. Amelia and her husband started connecting with neighbors two decades ago, the people said they desperately needed a place where addicted women could come to get clean. Babies needed their moms healthy again. Ms. Amelia, who lost her own sister to addiction, gathered her broken heart, rallied volunteers who were also brokenhearted, and together they purchased and renovated an abandoned building haunted by drug dealers, and opened Martha’s Place in 2000.  

Martha’s Place occupies five converted row houses as a long-term home for women recovering from addiction and starting independent lives.  Also on that corner are its sister projects: an arts program for youth and an urban farm offering employment opportunities to formerly incarcerated “returning citizens” who come back home to the community. The corner on which Martha’s Place stands was formerly a festering drug market and, because of the rehabilitation of the women and the redemption of that space, locals now refer to that corner as “Resurrection Intersection” – an oasis of hope in one of the most troubled parts of Baltimore. Ms. Amelia and her husband live on the same corner in one of the row houses with the women they have served for more than 17 years. 


Ms. Amelia and the people of Martha’s Place loved these women and this neighborhood through wartime – before the compassion, outreach and funds that came in with the wave of an official “crisis.”  And they are still struggling to afford to offer these vital resources. 

So today, not only are we asking for help to fund a transitional house for Hope on Haven Hill, and we are going to invest in the work of Martha's Place. We would like to fund an addictions counselor to meet regularly with the recovering women; a program director to help the women with family reintegration, job skills and placement; investment in alumni coordination so that women further along in recovery can serve as mentors, and alumni can rely on their sisters for continuous support and accountability; and critically necessary repairs to the homes so they can continue their warriors’ journey with dignity.  

We can do this. We can join our broken, tireless hearts with these warriors and heal this part of the world, together. We can practice equity. We possess enough compassion, enough love to honor the human dignity of multiple communities ravaged by addiction. 

Please Give. Every penny we receive from your tax-deductible donations will go directly to Hope on Haven Hill and Martha’s Place- and any extra we receive will fund homes like these throughout America. As always, we will share every detail about how the money is used in upcoming months.

You can make your tax-deductible donation by clicking here or on the GIVE NOW button below. Please give what you can—$5, $10, $15, or $25 –today, we’re bringing hope to these women and babies through all of our small gifts given with great love.  Remember that every donation matters.  

This is our doorstep and we are the innkeepers.  Today we say to homeless mothers and their babies: Come, we have made room for you.  Be safe and get well.  We love you, and the world needs you. 

*If you would like more information about this effort please click here or if you have questions, inquire here

Austin Brown