Watch CBS News

Nonprofit Savage Sisters Recovery says forcing it out of Kensington will worsen drug crisis

Kensington nonprofit being forced to leave after city councilwoman's request to terminate lease
Kensington nonprofit being forced to leave after city councilwoman's request to terminate lease 02:45

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Cleaning up Kensington is a top priority for new Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker.

But now, a nonprofit providing harm reduction resources to residents is being forced to leave. They say that will make the dire situation in Kensington even worse.

From their storefront on Kensington Avenue, Savage Sisters Recovery offers public health services, running water, clean clothing and wound care for people suffering from addiction.

RELATED: Animal tranquilizer xylazine sweeping Kensington streets

Now, the team has learned City Councilmember Quetcy Lozada asked the real estate developer who owns the building where Savage Sisters is located to terminate the organization's lease. 

"We do a lot of hard, ugly, brutal work day in and day out, reversing overdoses and serving a community of individuals that have basically been forgotten, and to know that we are advocating for them and working so hard and to know that our leaders are disregarding that work is disheartening," Sarah Laurel, the executive director of Savage Sisters Recovery, said. 

Lozada represents the city's 7th district and wants to get rid of illegal drug activity. She also wants harm reduction groups out of Kensington.

"They allow for people to publicly inject whatever controlled substances they are using in front of their establishment, inside their establishment," Lozada said.

RELATED: Mayor Parker picks Pedro Rosario as deputy police commissioner in charge of Kensington strategy

The councilmember claimed she had heard of people using heroin or other drugs inside of Savage Sisters.

Savage Sisters adamantly denied this and said the councilmember has never been inside to see the work they are doing to help those suffering from addiction.

"No, we would never let anybody use within our storefront," Laurel said. "Blaming an organization that has been in existence and our storefront has been there for two years — for a decades-long issue — is a scapegoat move."

The nonprofit started a petition, asking Shift Capital to reconsider.  

RELATED: Philadelphia police working with Kensington business owners as part of plan to clean up neighborhood: sources

The developer sent CBS Philadelphia a statement, saying they are terminating their lease with Savage Sisters but won't say why.

"We have reversed 300 overdoses in a year, that's 300 lives that we were able to save," Laurel said. "Not having that be recognized by our leadership is pretty frightening for a future within our community."

Last year, Savage served more than 13,000, getting many into treatment for substance abuse.

RELATED: Philadelphia city councilmembers form Kensington Caucus with hopes improving quality of life

"From the district to the roundhouse to State Road, we are absolutely ill-prepared for the epidemic that is coming from this drug crisis," Laurel said. "But instead, they are pushing the harm reduction out and they are going full law enforcement and we will feel the effects of this."

In Pennsylvania, deaths are trending at 436 a month – 14 overdoses a day in the commonwealth.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.