Citizen of the Week: Addiction Warrior Reenie Dugan
The Fishtown native, a former addict herself, is organizing a 5K on Saturday to raise awareness of the city’s opioid addiction epidemic
By Josh Middleton
“A June 2016 report from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health reported 700 deaths from drug overdose in Philadelphia last year—twice the number of homicides in the city.
Of those, 45 happened in the River Wards, a district comprising Fishtown and surrounding neighborhoods like Kensington and Port Richmond.
“Everybody comes here to get high,” Reenie Dugan says. “Everybody comes here to buy. It’s a horrible, horrible epidemic that’s going on. Why do we have to go to different parts of the state to raise awareness when the epidemic is full blown in our neighborhood?”
Dugan’s passion for the cause comes from an honest place. She became dependent on painkillers after having knee surgery during her sophomore year of college. It took her seven years to beat the addiction. She has found recovery, and hopes to use her experience to reach addicts and their families in an area of the city that desperately needs it.
With the help of family, friends and local race coordinators, Dugan decided to create her own charity 5K, called the Pink Elephant, that would benefit people in her community battling drug addiction.”
UPDATE: More than 500 people—registrants, volunteers and supporters—came together on October 1 for the first-ever Pink Elephant 5K. From the funds raised, Dugan tells us that she was able to donate money to several families who have run into financial difficulties because of loved ones who are addicted to opioids. She’s planning the second annual Pink Elephant 5K, and hopes to turn the project into a non-profit organization.
Walking With Strangers
A local man embarks on a daunting mission to spend an hour each with 10,000 people. Is he insane, or could we all learn something from the project?
By Josh Middleton
“Strangers zip in and out of our lives almost constantly every day. They nudge in next to us on the El, they ring up our groceries, and even campaign for offices that govern our city. But despite a “Hello” here or an “I’ll vote for you” there, our interactions with these people are sparse.
Maybe that’s a good thing—one of our mothers’ earliest warnings was to avoid people we don’t know. But what if—now that we’re all grown up—we did take that metaphorical candy from a stranger? Could it add something to our lives? Spark a lifelong friendship, or maybe an opportunity?
Those are questions we may soon have an answer to thanks to an impossibly charming local sales representative, who recently embarked on an ambitious mission to meet with 10,000 strangers for one hour each. As someone relatively new to Philadelphia (he moved here in 2013 to work for local startup RJMetrics), 25-year-old Rob Lawless saw the project as a quick way to make new friends and get to know this new city he calls home. But as he nears his 70th meetup, he’s starting to see advantages he never imagined—for him and for those involved.”
UPDATE: Lawless was laid off from his job a month after this article was published in May, but the media attention and influx of new meetups gave him the confidence he needed to take on this project full-time. As of today, he’s met a total of 613 people—everyone from homeless people and college students to former inmates and former Mayor Michael Nutter. In this blog post, he points out three meetings that have stood out to him the most. Going forward, he says he will continue meeting people full-time, using his savings to fund the project until he can secure some type of sponsorship. If all goes as planned, he’ll meet his 10,000th person about nine years from now.
South Philly Split on Median Parking
Our survey shows a small preference for continuing to allow parking on the median—and lots of anger on both sides of the issue
By Stephen St.Vincent
“In July, the 5th Square PAC put out a petition asking Mayor Kenney to permanently ban parking on the Broad Street median, which is temporarily done for major events like the DNC. The petition garnered over 1,000 signatures in its first week. But that petition didn’t target South Philadelphians, and it didn’t try to give voice to both sides of the issue. We were honestly curious about what South Philadelphians really think. And now we know.
Those who favor a permanent ban overwhelmingly cited safety as their primary concern. The next two most common concerns were the appearance that it gives to the neighborhood and the sheer fact that parking there is illegal.
Those who opposed a ban weren’t just frustrated in their responses; they were downright angry. Many people decried the influence of gentrifiers, transplants, yuppies, hippies, and “new Philadelphians.”
One respondent even called us the ol’ “see you next Tuesday.” Talk about shooting the messenger!”
UPDATE: After lobbying by urbanist PAC 5th Square, Mayor Jim Kenney around the time this story ran in September agreed to…think about banning the practice of parking on the Broad Street median. He said any change to the unofficial parking rules in South Philly would need the general consent of South Philadelphians—a divided group of citizens, as our poll showed, who are not likely to come to consensus anytime soon. Kenney did urge the Philadelphia Parking Authority to ticket cars that took things too far, by parking in turning lanes, for example. Meanwhile, 5th Square vowed to continue efforts to educate the public about what it sees as the safety concerns with this strange parking custom, and to lobby the city to put an end to it.