It’s easy to understand if the decision to place Copenhagen’s first injection room in what many consider the second-best location comes as a disappointment to Vesterbro residents. Less than a kilometre away from its planned location, disused city-owned property already functions as an ersatz injection room for the addicts who frequent the health clinic located there. It would seem only too simple and logical to end the city’s 20-year wait for an injection room by upgrading the facilities in Kødbyen to a full-blown clinic where addicts can legally inject heroin in a safe, clean environment while under the watchful eye of health professionals.
For those living near Vesterbro’s notorious main thoroughfare, Istedgade, not wanting an injection room in their area is more than just a case of NIMBY. The city’s red light district, Istedgade, has long been plagued by IV drug users, and the area around the building chosen to house the injection room is already a hangout for many of the city’s down-and-out residents. Adding a steady stream of IV drug users would only make it less attractive for residents.
Given Istedgade’s reputation, it’s impossible that anyone moving there could have been unaware of its drug problems, but neither should have it surprised the city that residents – most of them with good jobs, and many with children – would bristle at the prospect of bringing more drug addicts into their midst.
Even though we favour Kødbyen as the location for the injection room, there are still good reasons why Mændenes Hjem is a good choice too.
Firstly, as the organisation’s leader points out, placing it in Mændenes Hjem allows addicts to have a single point of access for multiple social services.
Secondly, there’s nothing to say that the injection room needs to remain in Mændenes Hjem permanently. If an initial trial period shows that the facility’s placement is causing trouble, the City Council could reconsider a Kødbyen location or even another address entirely.
Lastly, Copenhagen has one of the world’s highest rates of overdose-related deaths, and if continuing to lobby for the best placement would mean further delays – or the possibility of no injection room at all – then second-best, in this case, isn’t just the best option, it’s the only option.