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Church Leaders March To Show Solidarity With Heroin Users And Their Families

By Victoria Kim 07/19/16

A group of religious leaders took to the streets this past weekend to spotlight the impact of the heroin epidemic on users and their families in Staten Island.

Church Leaders March To Show Solidarity With Heroin Users And Their Families
Photo via Church at the Gateway

Over the weekend, local pastors and members of the Staten Island community marched in solidarity with heroin users and their families to shed light on the severity of the heroin crisis in the somewhat isolated New York City borough, from a place of compassion.

According to Rev. Brenda Byrd, asst. pastor at the Christian Pentecostal Church of Staten Island, about 450 people attended the Heroes of Hope march on Saturday (July 16), for a 2-mile trek from Our Lady Star of the Sea School to the Calvary Assembly of God. "The atmosphere in the air was electrifying," Rev. Byrd told The Fix. "[There was] a renewed hope displayed to the community."

The heroin crisis has hit the Island particularly hard compared with other areas of New York City. National Geographic dubbed the borough “Heroin Island” in a November 2015 episode of Drugs, Inc. And last week, District Attorney Michael McMahon reported that so far in 2016, there have been 56 reported heroin overdose deaths and 20 people who were saved by the overdose antidote, naloxone, on the Island.

The community was determined to show that there's more to Staten Island than the ravages of heroin. "We were answering a negative proclamation sent out by National Geographic that Staten Island is 'Heroin Island,'" Byrd told The Fix. "We took offense because we know and believe there are many heroes on this island."

A video posted to the Facebook page of another local church, the Church at the Gateway, shows a large turnout at the Saturday march, of Staten Islanders marching and singing together wearing neon Heroes of Hope shirts.

"We love the people in our community and actively serve to bring God's love to individuals and our community through our service," Jim Dickinson, director of programming at the Church at the Gateway, told The Fix.

After the march, the Christian Pentecostal Church invited the community to the beach for food and fellowship, where vendors and outreach booths gathered, ready to provide addiction resources and prayer for all those who have been traumatized by the heroin epidemic.

“This is a humanitarian problem, not a doctrinal one,” Rev. Joseph Chevere of the pentecostal church told SILive. “We can’t stay quiet. We can’t stay silent. We can’t do it alone. We have to do it together.”

“People should see that they don’t have to live in shame and isolation,” said Chevere. “We’re shouting it from the rooftops that it’s OK to bring it out into the open.”

Similar faith-based efforts elsewhere in the U.S. include Hope Over Heroin, an outreach group formed by a coalition of pastors in Ohio and Kentucky that brings “compassion evangelism” to the streets to those ravaged by heroin addiction. The group has held regular outreach events since 2014 throughout Ohio, Kentucky, and Illinois.

The next Heroes of Hope Event will be September 24, 2016 at the Church at the Gateway (200 Boscombe Avenue, Staten Island, NY) from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. For more info, visit the Christian Pentecostal Church of Staten Island on Facebook.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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