Puerto Rico exports its addicts to Chicago
About a year ago, Adriana Cardona-Maguigad started noticing lots more homeless men in Back of the Yards, the tough Chicago neighborhood where she works. She asked one after another: Where are you from? She heard the same story again and again. They were drug addicts from Puerto Rico, sent to Chicago to get help in well-appointed treatment centers. They found none of that, and ended up on the streets.
And then they told her something even stranger. Many of the men said they’d been sent to Chicago by police or other officials in Puerto Rico. Here’s how she went after the story, from her Chicago block to the island.
See photos and hear the story below, and go to WBEZ.org to read more. Then follow as Adriana's story continues on This American Life.
Over the summer Angel and Manuel lived together in an empty house near 51st and Throop, an area where vacant homes are common. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
The red brick building where Angel and Manuel stayed is falling apart and has a musty stench. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
In the abandoned house where Angel and Manuel stayed, trash is everywhere except the front room where they hang out. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
The bathroom of the abandoned home where Angel and Manuel stayed is extremely rundown. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
Manuel (right) had been in Chicago for two weeks when this picture was taken. He came to one of the 24-hour groups called Segunda Vida, or Second Life. Angel (left) came from Puerto Rico seven years ago for help kicking a heroin addiction. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
Adriana Cardona-Maguigad searches for signs that drug users have stayed here recently at an abandoned building in Back of the Yards. (Bill Heally)
Angel hangs out on 47th Street almost every day. He said he has tried quitting heroin 18 times. (Bill Healy)
Jose says the 24-hour groups work, and that it's up to addicts to improve their lives. He has relapsed twice since coming from Puerto Rico to one of the 24-hour groups in Chicago. (BIll Healy)
Christian panhandles to feed his heroin addiction. He mostly hangs out on the corner of Ogden and Western. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
Carlos (left), Gato (right), and Ruth (middle back) all went to Segunda Vida and other 24-hour groups to get off drugs.
They continue to struggle with drug addictions. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
Many Puerto Ricans who now live on the streets of Back of the Yards came to Segunda Vida, a 24-hour group that offers residential services to drug addicts hoping to get clean.
Manuel left Segunda Vida a few days after he arrived. When he walked out, he left his ID and medical records. When he tried to get them back, he was given the runaround. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
Segunda Vida's sign is in a second-floor window, making it difficult to see. It includes the traditional AA logo. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
El Grito Desesperado, or The Desperate Scream, has two locations on Cermak. Inside one of the locations the smell of cigarette smoke is overwhelming. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
Grupo Renacimiento is a 24-hour group on the North Side of Chicago, on Western near Armitage. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
Grupo Nueva Era is a 24-hour group that offers residential services and what some people call group therapy sessions.
Empty buildings that once housed 24-hour groups dot different parts of the city. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
A mural of Grupo Vida adorns a wall in Back of the Yards. That group used to be on the corner of 48th and Winchester. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
A drug user demonstrates how to shoot heroin. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
It's common to find used syringes in empty, boarded-up homes. Many times the homes become shooting galleries for addicts. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
Jose Alvarez picks up used needles from outside an empty house on 51st and Paulina. Alvarez works with drug users through the Community Outreach Intervention Project at UIC. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
Manuel is a heroin user who says he was sent to Chicago by Puerto Rican authorities last July. In Puerto Rico he was told he would be going to a place where he would get medical care and services to help him get off drugs. Instead he arrived at an unlicensed rehab home where former addicts take care of other addicts. He left after a few days at the group. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
Manuel was told in Puerto Rico that he was being sent to a rehab place in Chicago that had nurses, doctors, even a pool. When he arrived he found an unlicensed rehab home where he was insulted by other groups members. His existing health issues have worsened since coming to Chicago. (Bill Healy)
Manuel says he was sent by Puerto Rican officials to a 24-hour drug rehab group called Segunda Vida on 50th and Ashland. He walked out after a few days in the group, leaving his ID and other important documents. (Bill Healy)
La Perla is a small community north of El Viejo San Juan, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The neighborhood is known to be a hub for illegal drug trafficking. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
A homeless man rests on a sidewalk in El Viejo San Juan. (Adriana Cardona- Maguigad)
A police officer in the municipality of Caguas stands beside a motorcycle. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
A cruise ship at port in El Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico. Tourists flock to Puerto Rico for its natural beauty. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
The Governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro Garcia Padilla (right), plays basketball with a resident of La Perla. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
An addict in Puerto Rico get his ulcers cleaned by medical students from the University of San Juan. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
An addict in Puerto Rico gets his ulcers cleaned by medical students in Puerto Rico. The students make these "rondas" frequently. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
Agents Fernando León Verdecía and Edgardo Álamo Rodríguez from the Puerto Rican government program de Vuelta a la Vida in Caguas. (Viviana Bonilla Lopez)
Louis is a drug user who lives in Puerto Rico. He traveled to Chicago for treatment and then went back to the island after spending time in Humboldt Park. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)
Puerto Rico is full of natural beauty. (Adriana Cadona-Maguigad)