Hackney Harm Reduction Hub: three months in the life

The Hackney Harm Reduction Hub launched in March and now, three months on, we’re pleased to be expanding the service to two days a week, working with more volunteers and reaching more people who need harm reduction equipment and advice.

What is the Hackney Harm Reduction Hub?

The Hackney Harm Reduction Hub is a mobile unit where people can access all the harm reduction equipment and information they need, be signposted to other services where helpful, and receive support from living and lived experience peers who understand their circumstances. This means that access to needle and syringe provision (NSP), other clean works, naloxone, testing kits for synthetic drugs, condoms, hepatitis C testing and hot drinks. The service supports City and Hackney’s commitments to address infection and reinfection rates of hepatitis C and reduce other harms associated with injecting drug use and is provided by the London Joint Working Group on Substance Use and Hepatitis C and The Hepatitis C Trust close partnership with Hackney’s Community Wellbeing Team.

Where and when is the hub open?

The service has been running every Thursday, 2pm-8pm since March at the Ridley Road Market in Dalston, and can be found on Thursday at the corner of St Mark’s Rise & Ridley Road, E8 2NR. We are starting sessions on Mondays too at 2pm-8pm on the other side of Ridley Road Market, near the public toilets where Colvestone Crescent joins Ridley Road, E8 2NP (in July, these are Monday 8th, Monday 15th and Monday 29th). These times are based on feedback from people with living experience of substance use.

What makes the hub different?

The service is “peer-based”. This means that volunteers with living or lived experience of substance use and related challenges help run the service and sit on a Strategy Group, to make sure it is built from the ground up with the needs of those who the service exists for in mind. Nine living or living experience peer volunteers are being trained to support the service and many of the staff working on the service have lived experience as well.

As well as providing clear equipment to people who need it, the advice and support given by peers is having an important positive impact too. For example, a man who did not have a fixed address and uses opiates visited the trailer and disclosed that he was hepatitis C positive, but had never completed treatment. The Hub team referred him on to the local Turning Point service on Mare Street, where a hepatitis C nurse could support him, and helped him to initiate treatment.

The Hub team are quick to respond to needs in the community.  For example, in early May, the Hub joined with City & Hackney’s Local Drug Information System (LDIS) to rapidly produce an emergency leaflet after xylazine (also known as ‘tranq’) was detected in the local heroin supply.

What’s next?

The Hackney Harm Reduction Hub continues to evolve, driven by community feedback and the dedication of its staff and volunteers, and aims to operate from a fixed building in the borough next year. In the meantime, it is becoming a vital resource for reducing drug-related harms and supporting the health and wellbeing of Hackney residents, and we hope it can serve as a model for much-needed services just like across the country.