The Total Health Awareness Team, or T.H.A.T., is breathing life into an old gas station at the corner of 7th and 8th Streets in Rockford. The group is converting it into a thrift store/supply distribution center combination. Needles, condoms, and sterilization products will be distributed at the center.
"Those people are on the street already. We're trying to meet them and help them so they stay off the street," says Ray Rhoads, President of T.H.A.T.
T.H.A.T. originally wanted to run a supply distribution center in the 200 block of 7th Street. However, they were denied by the city of Rockford because the site was not zoned for that kind of use.
"Part of the reason we decided to take this location was to go ahead and establish all safer behavior supplies and establish this as a supply distribution center," says JBryan Latham, Executive Director of T.H.A.T.
Some neighbors are concerned about who the center will attract.
"Its going to bring all the drug heads and the dope pushers and the pimps into the area," says James VanDiver, owner of the Paymaster Pawn Shop.
VanDiver's pawn shop is located about three blocks away. He says the center flies in the face of everything the neighborhood aspires to be.
"This neighborhood has made a lot of progress and this is going to take it right in the opposite direction," VanDiver says.
However, JBryan Latham says the center won't harm the community; it will help.
"In all the cities studied including ours where there was a presence of syringe exchange, we've seen a six percent decrease in the spread of HIV and AIDS through injection drug use," Latham says.
"This type of operation should be at the hospital. If somebody needs it, you go to the hospital," Van Diver says.
The Total Health Awareness Team will still use the location in the 200 block for case management and counseling services.