KINGSPORT – A naked woman wanders down an alley, dances for hours and looks up to the sky.
A porta pot is on fire.
And a man comes back from the dead twice in two months at the same place.
At least two of the three are a direct result of the methamphetamine outbreak in the area, and all of them have occurred in or around Shades of Grace, a United Methodist church in the Five Points neighborhood.
The Church at 313 E. Sullivan St. helps the homeless, with the help of churches of various denominations in the area, providing food and clothing to those in need. And sometimes it provides a memorial service or a funeral service for people, some of whom were methamphetamine users or others who overdosed.
“It kind of boils down to who we are: feeding, dressing and burying the dead,” said Steve Wells, a lay church leader.
Michele Beck, volunteer pastor at Shades of Grace, said there was no way of knowing for sure how many funerals or services performed by the church are linked to methamphetamine.
“All drugs have a cost associated with them,” said Jack Carpenter, administrator and associate pastor of Shades of Grace.
He said many homeless people have a drug or alcohol problem, but aren’t necessarily on meth if they don’t have the money to buy it. He said that “gravel,” a synthetic drug sometimes shipped directly from China, is something he has heard of as a problem in the region as well.
MAN DIES TWICE, RELEASED TWICE
Reverend Will Shewey, full-time pastor of Shades of Grace, said the church keeps Narcan, an emergency relief drug for opioid and methamphetamine overdoses, on hand and often uses it to save lives.
“We keep him here all the time,” Shewey said.
It is stored in blue zipper pouches labeled “Opioid Overdose Reversal Kit” along with gloves, instructions, and medication, provided by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services.
“We had a young man who died twice in this building,” Shewey said of a man who had no pulse, no heartbeat and was turning blue after collapsing.
He walked into the storefront church in early 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and then told people he took methamphetamine.
“He’s still an addict. He hasn’t changed his ways, ”Shewey said.
In fact, Shewey said the individual returned to Shades of Grace within two months of the first incident, passed away a second time, and was brought back by Narcan again.
Shewey said the man had a relative who attends church, which welcomes people from all walks of life and has homeless people, drug addicts and recovering alcoholics among his congregation.
METH MAY PUT MORE DANGER THAN USERS
Wells said he had a friend in neighboring Scott County who is a Sheriff’s Deputy and with other officers he came into contact with people who had used meth and possibly other drugs about two years ago.
“They actually had to burn their uniforms,” Wells said, as methamphetamine is sometimes cut with fentanyl, a substance that can be fatal on accidental contact.
Carpenter said, “There have been so many guys coming here for breakfast jerking off and twerking. “
This can be a side effect of using methamphetamine, similar to the tremors alcoholics have when they withdraw from alcohol, and possibly a sign of nerve damage.
Shewey said a woman, who identified herself as having taken methamphetamine for three days, entered the church, said she had to sleep and essentially passed out, sleeping for eight hours.
“We are a safe sanctuary,” Shewey said.
SOMETIMES 911 IS CALLED
However, this does not mean that the police are not called when people are a danger to themselves or others, are disruptive, or need medical help.
For example, earlier this year the church called police to respond to a naked woman wandering the building, looking up to the sky and seemingly unaware of her lack of clothing or of other people who might see her.
Shewey said church video cameras picked up her behind the building in an alleyway.
“She danced around for two hours,” Shewey said of the incident around July, around the same time the Times News responded to calls about a naked woman walking on a sidewalk from Center Street one block from Shades of Grace. Shewey speculated that she might have had drug and / or mental health issues.
“It’s not uncommon to see this sort of thing,” Shewey said.
Shewey and the other staff also recalled that in March someone trying to cook methamphetamine in one of Shades of Grace’s two portable toilets near the church set one on fire. toilets.
Shewey said the church called the police and staff put out the fire, but the church had to pay for the burnt down toilet and eventually took the other one out because people were using it as trash.
PRESENTATION OF THE REHABILITATION OPTION
The church also tries to connect people with substance abuse problems with rehabilitation services.
Beck said mothers and grandmothers will come and seek child or grandchild rehabilitation and put something in place. But often the person never shows up or follows up.
“These are no-shows,” Beck said. “It’s one of the biggest sorrows we see.”
Shewey said, “If grandmothers could fix it for them, there would be no addicts. “
Beck, who worked at a faith-based drug treatment center in New York City, said she would ask addicts what led them to treatment, and they would say back pain.
“They wanted to get rid of someone,” Beck said, whether it was a parent, grandparent, judge or friend. She said that in the 12-month program she was working for, many would drop out at three months because they thought they had overcome the addiction, only to relapse.
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