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He’s a Dab of Glue in a Broken City

“Two guys fighting on the side of our garbage chute,” read one alert, from a coffee shop."
“Man threatening people with a dagger,” read another, from an art gallery."
“Buffet of misery. Fentanyl users passed out all around the apartment building.”

He’d revived at least 20 drug users in the last few years, and he always carried eight doses of naloxone. “Jesus juice,” it, but lately the medication wasn’t always enough to reverse an overdose. Synthetic fentanyl had gotten stronger, and it seemed as if all of Portland had increased its level of tolerance.

The city had decriminalized small amounts of drug possession.

He kept walking around the building and nudging people awake until he was back at the parking garage, where the victim’s body had already been bagged and taken to the morgue. The crime tape was gone, and the sidewalk was scrubbed clean. Cars drove in and out of the garage as another man sat down on the sidewalk, opened his backpack and pulled out a straw and a lighter.

Spiking rates of homelessness have contributed to public safety infrastructure becoming overwhelmed in many U.S. cities, including Portland.

By Eli Saslow Photographs by Erin Schaff


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