Supportive housing tenants have been extremely isolated during COVID-19, which can lead to increased substance use and other risky behaviors. Renowned harm reduction and supportive housing consultant Nina Herzog and Executive Director of Joseph’s House and Shelter Kevin O’Connor explored the principles of harm reduction, its application in supportive housing, and how these strategies can be best utilized during COVID-19. The conversation was moderated by Diane Louard-Michel, Executive Director of Lantern Community Services.
O’Connor grounded the conversation in the tenets of harm reduction, stating that the main goal of the practice is to “reduce risk” and that doing so takes on many forms, from wearing a seatbelt to practicing social distancing to using clean needles when injecting drugs. “Harm reduction focuses on the quality of life of the individual or the community,” he explained, “not necessarily the cessation of substance use or treatment compliance.”
Harm reduction is centered on the idea that the client is the expert on their situation, Herzog reminded attendees adding that a practitioner’s biases and judgements are irrelevant when practicing harm reduction. She said, "Harm reduction takes no position on drug use. Drug users are central and seen as the experts and authors of their services and programs."
Herzog ended the conversation with a reminder about positive framing and assuming the best. “Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have,” she said.