Addiction in Philadelphia, 1995

Local news organizations seem to be rediscovering addiction in Philadelphia recently — as overdose deaths have been skyrocketing in recent years — but it wasn’t a new problem when I took these photos in the Fairhill section of the city in 1995 and 1996. Maybe we could have done more then.

In the photo at the top of this page, men were pacing around a barrel fire for warmth in a vacant lot on West Indiana Avenue near Germantown Avenue. Drugs, needles and syringes were being sold in an open air market on the nearest corner and users were gathered inside nearby vacant houses, many of which were eventually demolished by the city.

A man and women gather some of their belongings after police ordered them out of a vacant house that neighbors complained was being occupied by drug users. Headlines at the time called these spaces “shooting galleries.”

A Philadelphia Police officer looks into a tomb inside the historic Fairhill Burial Ground. The door had been kicked in and drug paraphernalia littered the space inside.

Philadelphia Fire Department medics demonstrate treating overdose cases with naloxone for a newspaper reporter during a ride-along.

Men and women walk away after police drove them from a drug house on North Darien Street following complaints from neighbors.