Youngstown, O. - The former Republic Steel Co. pattern storage building, just across Poland Avenue from their Youngstown plant near Center Street. I have been past this building before and wondered what company once occupied it, as it looked like a mill shed. I was looking through Sanborn fire insurance maps from the 1920s researching another manufacturer in the area, and noticed this was Republic Steel property.
The one-time pattern storage building is not completely abandoned, it appears it is still used for storage of some sort by the modern business that sits on the property. I wandered around on Powersdale to see if I could find a better place to shoot from. I didn't find another way in, but I like the photo I made so it worked out.
As I was walking around looking for a hole in the fence, I noticed a discarded hypodermic needle on the sidewalk. It really drove home the reality and severity of the heroin epidemic in Youngstown. I say this having known way too many people that have died from an overdose, and plenty more that have lost their will to live because of it, but the needle sitting there affected me. Was someone running from the police and toss it? Did they use it and throw it out the window like a cigarette butt?
Last year I was discussing the heroin problem with two guys that have documented the Youngstown area since the downfall of the steel industry in the 80s and they made a very interesting point. They suggested that once the jobs suddenly disappeared, that people were in such shock, and felt such a sense of despair that they began to self medicate. It could have been liquor, or coke, or crack or heroin, but the point remains that if you have nothing to live for you turn to things like that.
I had a conversation recently with a man who's father was a psychologist in Youngstown in the 70s and 80s. He was there for the mass shutdowns and recalls the stress it caused the people of the valley. He states that depression, suicide and psychosis were so rampant in the Steel Valley that he could not keep up, business was booming and not in a good way. I would assume that substance abuse was not far behind these other issues.
I am not blaming the closure of the mills for the heroin crisis, there are plenty of other factors, I get it. The poor decisions and lack of willpower that lead a person to stick a needle in themselves, the pharmaceutical companies that pushed Oxys, the FDA that let them, and the pill mill doctors all helped to create this perfect storm. But don't you think that if there were more opportunities, more high paying jobs that were easy to get into, and not such a sense of "this is a dead town" among the youth that people would be less likely to start using heroin?
Just a thought.