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Photos: Harm Reduction in Brazil’s Cracolândias


A progressive new program seeks to help employ the thousands of crack users in Brazilian "Cracklands" without forcing them to quit using.

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There are an estimated one million crack users in Brazil, many of whom reside in Cracolândias (Cracklands)—open-air drug markets where users freely smoke in a de facto legal environment. The largest of these markets is located in São Paulo, where a new approach has recently been implemented. The Open Arms program, launched in January 2014, is a city-sponsored harm reduction initiative that provides housing, food and job training to users without asking participants to quit using.

In a number of ways the program has so far been successful—for example, 16 of the initial 422 participants have progressed through part-time work to being deemed fit for full-time work. By working methodically within the community and meeting people where they are, Open Arms is finding a sustainable approach to reducing drug dependency in São Paulo.

A photoessay by The Guardian offers a window into Cracolândias and the people involved in the Open Arms program:

The Cracolândia district has been run by crack users since the late 1980s. Photo via

The Cracolândia district has been run by crack users since the late 1980s. Photo via

This is an Open Arms tent where people can gather for food and socializing. Photo via

An Open Arms tent where people can gather for food and socializing. Photo via

A man stands in one of the Open Arms tent with a crack pipe and lighter hanging around his neck. Photo via

A program participant with a crack pipe and lighter hanging around his neck. Photo via

Users collecting brooms to embark on their job, provided by Open Arms, sweeping the neighborhood streets. Photo via

Participants collecting brooms to embark on their job sweeping the neighborhood streets. Photo via

A woman sweeps the streets of downtown São Paulo as part of her few hours of daily work.

A woman sweeps the streets of downtown São Paulo as part of her daily work. Photo via

A program participant sits on a bench while a police officer patrols the area. Most participants in the program don't face threat of arrest. Photo via

A program participant sits on a bench while a police officer patrols the area. Most participants in the program don’t face the threat of arrest. Photo via