Homeless in Harlem

This sad story of self-destruction from the New York Times paints a dark picture of daily life among some homeless.

An excerpt.

It was early afternoon when the man with the twitching legs was dragged from the ground into an ambulance. Another man selling books washed away the vomit.

A man named Charlie Medina sat at the same spot a few days later, unable to remember his name before he fell into a trance with his jaw open and his eyes dilated.

And the lovers. They were unable to find a room. One pulled off the other’s shirt and her bra, then started to kiss her bruised breasts while a small crowd gathered to watch.

The people here on this stretch of 125th Street in East Harlem may change, but the drug remains the same: K2, also called synthetic marijuana, a potent mix of herbs and chemicals that has become widely used among homeless people in New York City.

A joint of K2 goes for a dollar or two, far cheaper than food. Many bodegas on 125th Street sell it. A marijuana joint, by comparison, costs about $5. Crowds of up to 80 or 100 homeless people come in on buses from a nearby shelter on Randalls Island, drawn by heroin recovery clinics nearby, and spend the day here under the influence of this cheaper narcotic. The block between Park and Lexington Avenues appears at times to be a street of zombies.

“This is a K2 nation out here,” one man says before walking away confused.

Nearby blocks tell a different story. A Whole Foods grocery is under construction on 125th Street. An upscale restaurant run by the celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson serves expensive soul food dishes nearby. But this stretch is a holdout of what Harlem looked like before the development push began — perhaps an even darker version of that time. It is also a visual tableau of the homeless problem that has dogged the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The drug comes as a plastic bag of herbs sprayed with chemicals known as cannabinoids, which work like a deeply potent version of marijuana. K2 is illegal in New York State along with variants with names like Spice, AK-47 and Scooby Snax. But few arrests are made because manufacturers frequently change the chemical mix as substances are banned.

Retrieved September 2, 2015 from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/03/nyregion/k2-a-potent-drug-casts-a-shadow-over-an-east-harlem-block.html


About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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