Los Angeles County has begun distributing pipes used for smoking crack, methamphetamine, and opioids to the homeless population, hoping to discourage them from overdosing by injecting themselves with fentanyl.
The Los Angeles Times reported on the grim phenomenon Tuesday, which has divided homeless advocates:
By a line of ragged RVs slung along 78th Street in South Los Angeles, a seven-member team passes out glass pipes used for smoking opioids, crack and methamphetamine.
Part of the front line of Los Angeles County’s offensive against the deadly fentanyl epidemic, the group hands out other supplies: clean needles, sanitary wipes, fentanyl test strips and naloxone, medication that can reverse an overdose.
Fentanyl, which is laced in everything from weed to heroin and meth, was present in more than half of the nearly 1,500 overdose deaths of homeless people in 2020-21. In response, Los Angeles County this year increased its harm reduction budget from $5.4 million to $31.5 million. Most of the money covers staffing and programs; officials said that only a fraction of county funds — no state or federal money— goes to pipes.
Some believe that the pipes merely facilitate addiction; others argue that they slow the rate of drug intake.
The risk in fentanyl overdoses is that addicts inject typically their entire supply of the drug in one sitting; smoking a drug takes longer and lowers the chance of an overdose, supporters of the pipe program say.
Elsewhere, the Times notes, new Mayor Karen Bass is struggling to beat homelessness. Some people agree to move into hotels under her Inside Safe program, but they are often replaced on the street. Others refuse to go.
As Breitbart News noted earlier this year, Bass set a goal upon taking office several months ago of removing 17,000 homeless people off the street — roughly 40% of the city’s homeless population — in her first year.
Anecdotally, she has had some success: the area around Venice Beach has fewer homeless people living in tents than it once did at the nadir of homelessness under Mayor Eric Garcetti. But the problem remains staggering.