The door of Harm Reduction Services in Oak Park opens and in walks a soft-spoken man of 27. He’s an IV drug user and he’s homeless. He’s grateful as he exchanges used needles for clean ones from volunteer Erin “Presh” Grieshop. Chad Fallis has been a client for 6 year. He says he doesn’t know where he’d be without HRS. “It would probably be a bad place.”
Presh, short for Little Precious, is calm and supportive. Afterward, she says the clients are “so stigmatized, but they’re human like anyone else.” She works with drug users to make “small behavioral shifts” such as exchanging needles to prevent spreading infectious diseases.
“I really do love taking care of people,” Presh says. “Sympathy is very different that empathy. Sympathy is talking. Empathy is doing. Sympathy is ‘those people.’ Empathy is ‘us.’”