PAWTUCKET – An organization with a goal of helping identify harm reduction strategies and resources for individuals in recovery has opened a new location in Pawtucket.
Last Thursday, Sept. 23, Project Weber/RENEW staff held a ribbon-cutting event at their new location at 124 Broad St. where they had already served some 200 people.
Ashley Perry, Pawtucket program manager, thanked the many people involved in the success of the organization, including the Rhode Island Department of Health which funds it, the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen, additional outreach programs that support PWR, and the many individuals who work or volunteer for PWR.
“We serve so many people with basic needs services, so that looks like a bottle of water or it could look like what we call a bag to-go to a recovery house, so sheets, toiletries, really basic needs,” Perry said. “So this is going to make a huge impact on the people we serve.”
Executive Director Colleen Daley Ndoye said the PWR has had a big impact at this location and that the organization knows how successful it can be in a new area.
Leonela Felix, a state representative in Pawtucket, spoke at the event after working on legislation $3,000 legislative grant to support operations at the new drop-in center.
“I really want to thank Project Weber/RENEW for coming into this space, for opening up this space, and being welcoming and supportive to communities who need it the most,” Felix said. “We know there is a stigma around drug use, and we know that there is a stigma around so many different mental health issues, and they are really here on the ground doing the work to support our community, and that is really respectable and what we really need more of.”
Felix said that from personal experience, they know how hard it is to recover from addiction and that the community needs to celebrate those who are seeking the help they need as well as those who are not ready yet to seek help.
“We know that recovering from an addiction is not something that happens overnight, you can’t just simply turn on a switch, this is a lifelong issue, this is a lifelong support that is needed,” she said. “From personal experience I know I was not ready to seek that help, and it took some very drastic issues to happen in my life for me to be able to recover and for me to be able to stand here with you all today.”
Mayor Donald Grebien also spoke at the ceremony, showing his support for the organization.
“That partnership is so important, and I think all of us as community leaders and residents have seen the impact of what COVID has done, and it’s given us a new look on what we should be doing and what we sometimes don’t do enough of, so I want to thank you for your leadership,” Grebien said. “We’re talking about providing harm reduction services to residents both in Pawtucket and Central Falls. Project Weber/RENEW offers life-saving services.”
The organization plans on holding a fundraiser in the coming months.
“This support along with a generous gift from a Newport member will be the basis for our most generous campaign that will make sure we have all three of our drop-in centers open and serve the folks that need help and prevent overdose deaths,” Ndoye said. “We’ll be formally announcing this campaign soon.”
PWR was founded in 2016 after Project Weber and Project RENEW merged. Project RENEW started in 2005 with the Pawtucket Central Falls Development Corporation and both cities’ police departments. They hired their first outreach worker in 2006 and began supporting female sex workers in Pawtucket and Central Falls. Meanwhile, in Providence, Rich Holcomb and James Waterman began Project Weber in 2008, focusing solely on helping male sex workers.
Merging offered the ability to serve the full range of sex workers, providing peer-led street outreach, addressing basic needs, HIV prevention testing, support groups, and case management, among other services.