Syringe Litter Cleanup

Recently, Harlem United has focused on expanding our syringe litter cleanup programs. Used syringes can transmit HIV and HCV, so syringe litter poses a public health concern in Harlem and the Bronx. From September 2020 to February 2021, our team picked up 5,682 ground syringes in public parks throughout Central and East Harlem. This outreach team also connects people in the parks, many of whom are experiencing homelessness, to our other services and provides basic hygiene kits, food pantry, and safer use supplies.

Robert Boyett, Harm Reduction Outreach Specialist, spoke about the program:

“I do syringe litter cleanup and harm reduction outreach in targeted locations in the Bronx and in Harlem. We mostly serve marginalized populations, people that really don’t have a lot of assistance and are using injection drugs. And we try to make it safe and, at the same time, clean up the community, to make it safer for ALL the individuals that are in the park.

“We have syringe exchange, but you know what they love? When we give them the hygiene kits: toothpaste, razors, toothbrush, soap, deodorant. We give out wound care kits, we give out condoms, and we give out pantry bags with little snacks. I think it gives them a sense that they have somebody they can turn to.

“I notice that when we go to the parks, the clients, they want to help us clean up. They show us where the syringe litter is at. They’re eager to help out, and they be like ‘come on, bring bags so we can cleanup all the garbage.’ They’re always enthused, that’s the word I’m looking for, they’re very enthused when we come through.”