The number of people using the services of the Icelandic Red Cross harm reduction project ‘Frú Ragnheiður’ tripled last year, according to RÚV. A new vehicle, in which health service is offered, was taken into use on Tuesday. The project’s goal is to reach out to people on the fringes of society, such as the homeless and those with an addiction problem.
“The old Frú Ragnheiður, having driven around the capital area since 2009, had become very old and tired, and now gets to rest,” Reykjavík Red Cross Director Þórir Guðmundsson commented, but the name of the vehicle means Mrs. Ragnheiður.
The new Frú Ragnheiður is specially designed for the project. Individuals can come and receive various health services, such as the treatment of wounds, change of dressings, blood pressure measurement, and general health counseling. In addition, the project offers a needle exchange, which allows addicts to get clean needles and get rid of old ones, thereby reducing the risk of infection. Almost 100 volunteers work for Frú Ragnheiður.
“This is the most popular Red Cross volunteer project in Reykjavík, and there is not room for all the interested volunteers. That’s how we can staff this vehicle with three people, one of them a health professional, every night but Saturday night.” The plan is to extend the service to Saturdays.
In 2015, there were 1,000 visits to Frú Ragnheiður, but about 2,800 last year. Thus, the increase was almost triple.
Þröstur Ólafsson volunteers for the service. He remarked, “It fills the heart with joy, and especially when you meet and talk to these people on the fringes of society… When we show up and offer them a little comfort and a hug, you’re moved to tears.”