Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) hosted an event on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in honor of International Overdose Awareness Day and to remember those who have lost their lives to opioid-related overdoses.
The memorial was hosted at the South End Branch of the Boston Public Library at 685 Tremont St. and at BHCHP’s main building, the Supportive Place for Observation and Treatment (SPOT), at 780 Albany St. SPOT is able to provide emergency medical support to those in need and at risk of overdose.
Portraits of men and women who have lost their lives to opioid overdose were coupled with quotes of remembrance written by friends and family members projected on the outside of the buildings.
“We wanted to put a face to the epidemic,” said Jessie Gaeta, chief medical officer at BHCHP.
All those remembered by the memorial came from various age groups, genders, professions and ethnicities.
“It just shows the wide variety of people… It can be anyone—anyone of us,” said Anne Smart, branch librarian at the South End Branch of the Boston Public Library. “We all helped to get this event started; myself, all the people over here and all the people in the neighborhood.”
The memorial also included a city-wide display where volunteers used sidewalk chalk to write quotes, memories and messages of those remembered.
“I gathered volunteers, and we reached out to staff to go around the city… Everyone had a list of patient names and stories,” said Alyssa Brassil, special events manager at BHCHP. “Some people from the community asked to borrow chalk to write their own messages, which was a really nice thing, I think.”
The powerful photographs coupled with a touching city-wide chalk display created a positive and moving event that has reached members of the community.
“It’s really amazing to see something like this come together,” said Allison Garrant of the Pine Street Inn Clinic.
Since 2012, fatal overdoses in Boston have almost tripled. In 2016, opioid-related overdoses caused almost 2,000 deaths in Massachusetts alone. The opioid-related overdose death rate is between 16 and 30 times higher among homeless individuals compared to the rest of the adult population.
Since 1985, BHCHP has worked to provide support and access to healthcare for over 12,000 homeless men, women and children in the greater Boston area each year.
SPOT is accessible Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m. For more information about SPOT, please visit https://www.bhchp.org/spot.