End of the road for the fix on wheels
As wheels stop turning for Copenhagen's mobile injection rooms, organisers find reason to celebrate and commemorate
A familiar site in Vesterbro is now being permanently parked (Photo: Emily McLean)
At a gathering in Kødbyen last week on Friday, advocates celebrated the establishment of a permanent injection room in Copenhagen and the release of a new book detailing the long-time struggle for such a facility.
Mobile injection rooms have been operated for the past year out of two former ambulances. Run by the private organisation Foreningen Fixerum and staffed by volunteer healthcare workers, the rooms-on-wheels offered a safe and hygienic place, off the streets, for drug users to inject. The City Council took over the project earlier this year when the long legal battle to establish stationary injection rooms was finally won.
While the permanent facility will open at the Vesterbro community centre Mændenes Hjem (the men’s home) next August, a smaller, temporary location has been operating in Halmtorv Square since October 1. The ambulances, which Fixerum organisers sold to the City Council, are now situated across the street.
The opening in Halmtorv marked a profound moment for organisers and advocates of the injection rooms, who have fought for a permanent location for years. But they’re not the only ones with reason to celebrate, according to Ole Hoff-Lund, a board member and public relations officer for Foreningen Fixerum. The injection rooms are already beneficial for the users and residents alike, he said.
“We hear from police and politicians, from the people living here, that everybody is very happy that drug users can now step aside in private, do their thing, have their high, and go out on the street again,” Hoff-Lund said.
“The drug users tell us that they’ve never wanted to be a nuisance for anybody,” he said. “What they hate the most is to be in the middle of a fix and then catch the eye of two little kids and their mother coming home.”
Line Ishøy, an attendee at the book release and a student in environmental studies at Roskilde University, said the availability of such resources for users is an important component of city planning – one that is often overlooked.
“Usually a city is planned around the middle class and the richer people, but the lower classes and the outcasts are never really a part of that,” Ishøy said. She said it was important to establish a place where users can gain acceptance as a human, rather than just an outcast.
It’s this message, according to Hoff-Lund, which is brought to light in the Foreningen Fixerum’s new book, to be released on November 30. Entitled Fixerummet der fik hjul: En historie om værdighed (Fix on Wheels: a Story of Dignity), the publication details the journey of the injection room movement and the drug problem in Copenhagen dating back to the 1970s.
As the City Council takes over where the Foreningen Fixerum left off, Hoff-Lund said the organisation wanted to document their work in print. He hopes the book will act as a preventative tool for young people to avoid drugs, and as an inspiration to anyone interested in social welfare.
“I’d hope to inspire people not to be afraid to jump into deep water when they want to do a project that the government cannot lift themselves,” he said. “A little civil disobedience can change some big problems in your own neighbourhood.”