A group of volunteers has been walking the streets in one of Rochester’s most drug-infested neighborhoods trying to save lives. The “Find Your Path” program has now helped to connect more than 50 people with live-saving services.
ROCHESTER — A group of volunteers has been walking the streets in one of Rochester’s most drug-infested neighborhoods trying to save lives. The “Find Your Path” program has now helped to connect more than 50 people with live-saving services. 70 percent of heroin-related arrests in the City of Rochester happen in the North Clinton Corridor. The men and women charged in those crimes aren’t all from that area, many just end up there because they know they can find drugs, so that’s where “Find Your Path” has set up its operation.
Volunteers at the program, all have stories of their own, “I lost my brother at the end of June to a drug overdose and I was really bothered by the way he was treated in the emergency room, there really wasn't any connection to care, or a link to treatment or any follow-up right before he died,” says Michela Peters.
Yana Khashper is in recovery herself, the reason she volunteers, she says, is simple, “I've lost a lot of friends this year and I've buried a lot of friends that were out in this neighborhood who were using so if I can make a difference and if one person could just live, that's really all I'm here for,” she tells News10NBC.
“Find Your Path” connects those facing addition or in recovery with housing, food, clothing or treatment. “Often times, we don’t even get a chance to do neighborhood outreach, we have folks dropping in from the neighborhood who are waiting for us to open,” says Jon Westfall, the program director. This week, a number of men stopped by when the center was open on Tuesday. One had just finished a rehab program and was in need of food to get him to his first pay day at his new job. Within 15 minutes, the volunteers were able to get good and a gift card from the Open Door Mission for the man. Another man, was looking for help finding an AA meeting that worked with his schedule.
The volunteers don’t just wait for people to come in and ask for help, they go out and walk the streets looking for people to save too. “You can hear about it and you can hear the stories and you can talk to people who have been through it but until you've actually watched someone sitting in a pile of garbage, who looks like they could be your own daughter, nothing in the world can prepare you for that,” Westfall says.
There are dozens of abandoned homes in the area where drugs are sold and consumed and where prostitution takes place. The “Find your Path” team isn’t afraid to go inside, “at times there are people willing to come right away, at other times, they come later,” Khashper says. While walking the streets on Tuesday, the team interacted with a number of men they encountered. One said that he was in recovery and doing well but was looking to change doctors so he could get greater access to suboxone. Another man listened as the volunteers shared their stories, took a flyer and said he would consider checking in with them next week.
“A lot of people that we reach on the streets have given up hope because people have given up hope on them or the treatment centers have given up on them, or they’ve given up on themselves,” Peters says of why she does the outreach. “It really is a third world country out here…it’s just really sad and awful, People suffer in broad daylight in the middle of the street and nothing is being done about it, I think it’s really important to shed light on what this really looks like,” adds Khashper.
The “Find Your Path” center is located at 1164 N. Clinton Avenue and began its outreach efforts in July 2017. It’s open every Tuesday from 10 a.m to 2 p.m.. The pilot program is currently all volunteer and looking to expand.