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'A complete abstinence': This Phoenix organization targets drugs to clean its community

An organization in south Phoenix is working to create a cleaner community by providing resources to people affected by homelessness, clean up trash, and educate youth about marijuana and other substances. 

Redeem Neighborhoods sends representatives to schools in multiple districts to educate on the dangers of drug use as well as offer training to school faculty on how to use Narcan, according to Redeem Neighborhoods co-founders.

Partners Jeanette and Theodore Arnds initially started the organization as a way to help clean their neighborhood, but said they quickly realized they could do more for their community. 

Their target group is teenagers, as they teach “a complete abstinence of any kind of substance,” the Arnds said.

The organization works with the Phoenix Unified High School District and has created educational materials specifically for “gateway” substances, Arnds said. 

“We are currently starting our vaping and marijuana education awareness program,” Jeannette said. 

The organization's recent efforts to end marijuana use was to attempt to stop the build of a new cannabis dispensary near 49th Avenue and Baseline Road, less than two miles from three local high schools, Theodore said. 

The dispensary’s variances to begin building have been approved by the city; however, Theodore says Redeem Neighborhoods will continue to fight against the build before construction officially starts. 

“There is an appeal process that we are looking into,” he said. “We feel that this is going to be detrimental to our community.”

Jeanette said that the legalization of marijuana and the rise of dispensaries in the area has contributed to the issues with marijuana use the organization is looking to solve. 

“I really feel like for our community and where we’re at, in the middle of three high schools, that [the dispensary] is not going to help our kids,” she said. 

Shauneen Washburn, Redeem Neighborhoods’ Media and Community Awareness Coalition member, said marijuana can be a gateway drug and just as dangerous as any other substance. 

“Anytime that you use something to cover up something else it becomes a problem,” she said. “It's the same thing with fentanyl, it's the same thing with marijuana.”

The organization routinely hosts trash cleanups around their neighborhood, as well as reaches out to people affected by homelessness. 

“Somebody should clean up this mess,” she said. Jeanette and Theodore Arnds’ first clean-up was a small meet-up with volunteers from the community.

 “We’re going to come out and pick up trash and we're going to try to engage with the homeless,” Jeanette said.

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