South Peninsula Syringe Exchange received a $1,000 grant from The Awesome Foundation, providing funding for a pilot program over the summer. Catriona Reynolds announced the grant at the city council meeting on Monday, April 25.
“It came together and worked out that there are enough people in the room to give it momentum,” Reynolds said.
The syringe exchange program, which has been worked on by a group of community members and local agency representatives in Homer, received a home in the form of the South Peninsula Hospital’s training and education facility on Pioneer Avenue, according to Reynolds.
Dr. Sarah Spencer of South Peninsula Hospital told Reynolds on April 14, three days after the city council work session on heroin use in Homer, that the hospital had approved the location for use. Previously, the program was looking for a space where addicts could come and exchange dirty needles for clean ones and receive education about treatment.
The current plan is to open for a three- to four-month pilot project by June. The grant money allows the syringe exchange to purchase clean needles, syringes, cotton and cookers, which are used to prepare drugs for intravenous use, Reynolds said. The pilot program will allow the group to form a plan and show a successful run, which could help secure future long-term funding. The grant from The Awesome Foundation is the first financial support the project has received, Reynolds said.
Studies demonstrate syringe exchanges reduce transmission of HIV and hepatitis B and C within the community, according to Spencer. There is no evidence that syringe exchanges increase or encourage illegal drug use, but rather they decrease injection drug use.
The Awesome Foundation supports projects such as art, technology and community development through $1,000 ‘micro-grants,’ according to its website. The organization has chapters worldwide, including Alaska. Members of the chapter pool money to provide one-time grants to groups each month.
“It’s really kind of no strings attached. You write a proposal; they send the money. That’s about it,” Reynolds said.
Homer community members, including Susie Amundson and the Rotary Club of Homer Downtown, have previously received grants from The Awesome Foundation. Amundson partnered with Haven House to provide a course called “12% Happier Class,” focusing on inner wholeness, at Many Rivers for less privileged women. The Rotary Club partnered with the Friends of Homer Public Library to create small libraries in public spaces throughout Homer.
Anna Frost can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.