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Philly neighborhood activists met with DoJ over supervised drug consumption sites. Elected officials were turned away

Aubrey Whelan, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

PHILADELPHIA — Representatives from neighborhood groups around Philadelphia said they felt federal officials are not listening to their concerns about efforts to open a place in the city where people could inject drugs under medical supervision.

Civic group leaders met Tuesday with U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Romero as the U.S. Justice Department conducts settlement talks with Safehouse, the nonprofit attempting to open the site. They tried to bring elected officials to the meeting, but said the politicians were turned away.

The federal government sued Safehouse over the site’s opening in 2019. After years of legal fighting, the organization started mediated talks with Department of Justice officials in January, aiming to settle in the case.

But residents from Philadelphia neighborhoods where a site may end up want to be more involved in discussions.

Shannon Farrell, who runs the Harrowgate Civic Association, said that her group and others in the city began asking for a meeting with Romero about two months ago, and had sent Romero’s office a list of people who would attend, including elected officials.

On Tuesday, those officials were not permitted into the meeting, which was not open to the public, Farrell said, explaining that Department of Justice officials said the elected officials did not have clearance to attend. (Typically, the department’s Washington-based Office of Legislative Affairs coordinates requests and visits from members of Congress, according to its website.)


“I think that disenfranchises thousands of people that we represent who are against supervised injection sites,” said state Rep. Jose Giral, a Democrat who represents parts of the Kensington neighborhood.

Romero’s office declined comment.

Ronda Goldfein, Safehouse’s vice president, said she wasn’t aware of a meeting between Romero and the civic associations. Only the parties involved in the suit — the nonprofit and the federal government — are involved in the ongoing settlement talks, she said. Her organization remains open to conversations with the community.

“We always want to hear what people are thinking,” she said. “These talks are about getting the authority to implement this kind of initiative. Then there has to be a conversation about how the initiative is implemented.”


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