Although there are many south Bronx organizations fighting to take back their communities from opioid and substance abusers, there’s one group that’s standing out from the rest.
‘Take Back the Hub’ is a drug-combatting organization ran by community activists Marty Rogers and Sister Patrice Owens of Immaculate Conception School at 378 E. 151st Street.
One initiative conducted by Take Back the Hub is weekly rallies calling attention to the frequent overdosing in the area of East 149th Street and Third Avenue under the moniker ‘Sound The Alarm.’
At one of its most recent rallies on Saturday, December 15 Sound The Alarm showcased three orange juice containers jammed with hypodermic needles and other drug paraphernalia just left on the streets of The Hub.
Using colorful chalk in the Hub’s newly constructed plaza, rally goers write messages on the sidewalks intoning the community’s many efforts to take back The Hub from those that are addicted to drugs.
“We call it Sound The Alarm because this is an emergency and things need to change now,” Rogers said. “We don’t want you to sit with us, we want you to walk with us, we want you to see the problems that this area is swarmed with,” the activist added. He pointed out that there are 30 drug treatment facilities within two miles of The Hub, which draw the drug users to the area.
Rogers believes that the various programs shoo-out the habitual drug users, when they should be providing a more holistic approach to the problem, such as providing beds for those afflicted to get their lives back in order.
“Throwing (the drug users) back out on the street at night hasn’t worked, it very obvious. Treatments need to be extended further. We need more [thorough] treatment programs here,” Rogers said.
Sr. Owens has seen the drug epedemic reach her doorstep, literally, in the form of drugged out individuals camping out on the church’s front staircase.
More than that, the NYC Department of Sanitation has added insult to injury, fining the church for the discarded cardboard boxes and other paraphernalia that the drug users leave on the streeet in front of the church.
“The fines are $60 dollars and we’re apparently responsible to clean up after them,” Sr. Owens said.
“We’re not demonizing the (drug users), that’s not what this is about, but enough is enough. We want these people cared for and we also want to protect our community,” she said.
Both Sr. Owens and Rogers have successfully reached out to the area’s youth to sound the proverbial alarm.
Christopher Betancourt, a 16-year-old junior at Fordham Preparatory School, is one of those that has heeded the call. He is deeply involved with Sound the Alarm; he also lives near The Hub on Morris Avenue.
“The first thing I see on my way to catch the Bx 41 bus to school is people unconscious on the ground, sometimes laying in their own waste, all completely knocked cold by drugs,” he said. “Everyday I have to walk through the problem. This effects me directly,” the junior activist added.
He along with Rogers and Sr. Owens continue to call on the Bronx to literally ‘walk the walk’ with Take Back The Hub and Sound The Alarm.