Europe’s most Illuminated Gutter (Part 3: Drugs)

One thing that I could not get around in my interviews (even if I didn’t ask about it) was drugs and drug usage on the streets. This is definitely a very important topic when discussing homelessness.

In my last post I quickly talked about Aurolac and how it used to be the spitting image of children who were homeless in Romania. I think this image is still upheld, despite the shift in drug usage among children, youths and adults who are homeless. People are still seen to sniff out of black plastic bags, but the more prevalent and dangerous drugs they are using now are what they call legal drugs. Nobody really knows what they are, but they are some bio pharmaceutics that can be legally bought over the counter at pharmacies once you reach the age of 18.

The major problem with this drug usage is that you need syringes to get high. Now, because many of these people are on a constant, or almost permanent, high they would need lots of syringes. Syringes are expensive…and why should you waste money on something that you could use over and over again? Now if each person had their personal syringe that wouldn’t be such a big problem, but since syringes are a communal good that is shared throughout the canal HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis are prevailing diseases.

I have also heard that drugs are the main cause of death on the streets. Overdose or drug related incidents have caused deaths of friends of every single person I talked to at the social centre.

But, drugs also equal money. I am here to destroy a very common misconception…people who are homeless are not poor. Yes, they live in what might be seen as inhumane conditions, don’t have enough to eat and cannot pay medical bills, but when it comes to money, they are not poor. One man proudly told me of his begging and stealing days in Western Europe where he would make E40 or E50 every day for three months. After that, he would come back to Romania and spend all that accumulated money (around E4000) on drugs…within 2 weeks.

As a drug dealer, even among the poorest of the poor, making E25,000 is quite a quick thing. It doesn’t take years to make that much money. Only a couple of trips to foreign countries and some good drug deals and some lucky golden necklaces that were stolen.

To put this in relation to Bucharest prices, I saw an advertisement the other day for a 2-bedroom apartment that was for sale close to the train station. It was for E35,000. Working for a couple of months on the streets could get you almost an entire 2-bedroom apartment in Bucharest.

I’m just going to leave that there for you to make up your own opinions.

I was told repeatedly, by several people, to not give money to the people that are begging, because they will just spend it on drugs. I was told that it’s better to give them food or some tea or coffee. Either way, someone who needs drugs is going to find ways to get them. And after having a man explain to me, in very much detail, how easy it is to steal something from unsuspecting, but also suspecting, victims, I wonder if it makes a difference whether you give beggars money or not…


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