addiction

Homeless addicts: Next door, worlds away

WARNING: Graphic images may be offensive to some viewers.

U. PENN (US)—Homeless heroin addicts are far closer than most people realize, according to research by medical anthropologist Phillippe Bourgois.

For more than a decade, Bourgois, the Richard Perry University professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and graduate student Jeff Schonberg have studied the lives of heroin addicts as they struggle to survive while living on the streets of San Francisco.

To compile the research for their book, Righteous Dopefiend, Bourgois and Schonberg spent time with heroin injectors and crack smokers—listening and talking to them, observing how they live, photographing them and sometimes sleeping in their encampments.

“In doing the fieldwork,” Bourgois says, “it was almost too hard to believe what we were seeing—a community of homeless drug users exists just yards away from major thoroughfares, but it remains invisible to people who pass by everyday.

“You only have to step down an alley, go behind a bush and—boom!—a universe of poverty and addiction opens up right in front of you.”

University of Pennsylvania news: www.upenn.edu/pennnews

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