Pubdate: Thu, 11 Jan 2001
Source: Bay Area Reporter (CA)
Copyright: 2001 The Bay Area Reporter / B.A.R.
Author: John Iversen
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


Alameda County supervisors and public health leaders came together Monday
morning, January 8, to decry the suspected arson fire which caused $250,000
in damage to the Oakland needle exchange, Casa Segura, late on December 31. 

A press conference in front of the burned out building in Oakland's
Fruitvale District attracted over 100 supporters of Casa Segura, the
multi-purpose headquarters of the Oakland needle exchange. 

Arnold Perkins, director of the Department of Public Health, expressed
"absolute outrage" that such harm had been done to an organization which has
a mission of healing. "Alameda County has declared an AIDS state of
emergency in the Latino and African American communities. Casa Segura
provides non-judgmental treatment for those stricken with the disease of
substance abuse." Perkins said that his department supports Casa Segura and
will assist them in finding a new location. 

The fire was termed "intentional" by Oakland fire investigators. Casa Segura
Director Chris Catchpool called the destruction "an act of arson, [or]
terrorism, possibly a hate crime and a definite attack on all AIDS and drug
treatment advocates." Catchpool again stated that the needle exchange will
continue to serve 400 individuals weekly in the parking lot of the gutted
building under the light of portable electric generators. 

Madelyn Stone, director of the East Bay Community Recovery Project, said her
agency would continue its drug treatment services during exchange time. The
abscess wound clinic will also continue to treat 25 people per week. 

Missed will be the hot daily meals, HIV testing and counseling, case
management, food and clothing banks, acupuncture detox, and herbal and
vitamin treatments which have made Casa Segura a nationally recognized
model. The federal government recently awarded the agency a prestigious
multi-year grant to continue its critical HIV prevention work. 

Recently appointed Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker, whose district includes the
Fruitvale area, said that she was "saddened and shocked by the fire which
needs to be fully investigated. The county will ensure continuity of service
and support an appropriate new location." 

Gerald Lenoir, Casa Segura board secretary and co-founder, praised staff and
volunteers who have "acted above and beyond the call of duty during this
crisis." He called for "unity rather than divisiveness" and castigated a few
neighbors and a member of Fruitvale District City Council member Ignacio De
La Fuente's staff for circulating an "inflammatory statement" at the press

The De La Fuente statement was a letter written to Casa Segura's director
dated November 21 concerning the location of the Fruitvale exchange. The
letter concluded: "I expect you and your staff will proactively and
aggressively seek out a new location. ... And I expect that my office will
make the final determination about whether a potential site is acceptable
with respect to the impact on surrounding neighbors." 

Supervisor Keith Carson, a longtime supporter of LGBT and AIDS causes, made
the following statement regarding site locations. "All neighborhoods,
regardless of whether you're building low-income housing or other
facilities, seem to have this 'not-in-my-backyard' syndrome. Unfortunately
we have to go in somebody's backyard to provide housing or drug treatment.
If prostitution, drug use and addiction, and people who need help are in a
community, we have to go where those individuals are. This happens to be in
our communities and neighborhoods." 

Carson reiterated that he wanted the perpetrators of the fire to understand
that the county fully backs Casa Segura and all other needle exchange sites.
He said the board will back any temporary site for the agency and engage in
dialogue with city of Oakland officials to find a suitable ongoing,
permanent location. 

Oakland officials have recently come under fire by the African American AIDS
Task Force for doing nothing about AIDS. Task force spokesman Alvan Quamina
challenged Mayor Jerry Brown "to find resources and a new location for Casa
Segura that works for everyone; the clients, the staff, and the

Calls to Brown's office and the Oakland Police Department were not returned
and no statements had been issued as of press time. 

To help Casa Segura, call board secretary Gerald Lenoir at (510) 568-1680.
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