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'The Bluff will suck you in' 

An interview with a man who depends on the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition

Twice a week, Claude brings used needles to the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition's syringe exchange in English Avenue. The 59-year-old shoots speedballs — a mixture of heroin and cocaine. He says he helps people purchase drugs when they drive into the neighborhood and sometimes charges white people extra. He's lived in the area for more than 40 years.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

I'm just an ordinary person, stick by myself, don't want to hurt anybody, don't want nobody to hurt me. Haven't got stabbed, shot.

[If I weren't at the needle exchange] I'd have to buy them off the street. Normally it'd cost $15 in some places. Sometimes you can get them for $5. But $15, especially if it's late at night. It's the only choice you have. That will last a day or a night until the sun comes up.

I got two bags of works. Turned in the old one to get a new one. This here will last me a week. Then I come back and redo them.

Sometimes I need money to get me heroin, I'll sell them. I sell this one pack and I keep a pack. I try to help them to help me. Some [people, I'll sell them syringes for] a couple dollars. I have paid $15 at one time. Other than that, I'll sell it for $2.

Heroin, cocaine, speedball. It's real easy to get. Every corner. Woman or a man, it doesn't matter. Everybody you see out there, that's what they doing. That's why they're in the area.

You'd [to reporter] look out of place here. Most of the whites who come through, we know they're coming to buy dope. The best thing, if I ain't got no heroin to do, and I know you're on the way to get it, stop you, you'll pay me for getting it for you. Sometimes you'd give me $20. Most of the white people come through, they'll say, "I've got $50."

People who come through buying [don't live in the neighborhood]. But you have a lot of people who came over and got stuck. What I mean when I say get stuck, I mean the Bluff will suck you in. You come through here and ride through, I meet my partner, say come on and say let's go get high. We start getting high. Next thing I know I'm spending everything I got. I'm pawning my car, pawning my jewelry, pawning my watches. Then next thing I know I ain't go no more money. I'm stuck in the Bluff. Ain't got no way out. So the Bluff will suck you in.

The area is OK. You got a lot of young kids who come along with the shooting and all that trouble. The old cats are basically safe. But you gotta worry about the young cats. They're the ones causing the trouble. They're the ones bringing the police along.

Young people stand on corners, young people come up, jump over and want to take over your spot. They'll gang war you, jump up on you where you set up.

I can get out if I want to. I can easily get out. This is my life. I don't live in Buckhead. I don't live in Cascade. I don't live way out. That ain't for me. All that quiet? Un-uh. Noise, that's my kind of thing. I'm in my right area. I'm happy. I'm fine.

Jim Burress is a host/reporter at WABE.

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