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Drug addiction and Homelessness

Homelessness has long been associated with drug addiction. While it is true in many cases that homeless people are suffering from a drug addiction, it is not in all cases and the two can not be linked together for everyone who is displaced. Homelessness can occur for many reasons, and there is no easy solution on how to fix this problem. Many people who become displaced from their home and have a past problem with addiction will return to drugs as a way to cope.

The Scope of the Homelessness Problem in the United States

There is approximately 3.5 million people in the United States that would fall under the category of being a homeless person, that is 1% of the nations population which includes 1.5 million children. It is believed that recent economic changes in the country have lead to the increase in the homeless of up to 1.5 million people. While there are many groups throughout the nation that work directly with the homeless to help them find gainful employment, housing and offering them other resources, the problem itself will not come to an end any time soon.

Substance Abuse Problems within the Homeless

It is believed that approximately 38% of homeless people abuse alcohol while 26% regularly use other drugs. Substance abuse it much higher amongst the homeless than it is within the general population. This is why many feel that substance abuse is a contributing factor to the reason which people have become homeless. It is clear that homelessness can cause a great deal of stress on a person, as well as some dealing with mental health problems, many turning to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with their current life situation. Many homeless people self medicate, feeling as if there is no hope for them at this point in their life.

While many homeless people turned to substance abuse as a way to cope with their life, there are also many people who have had a substance abuse problem which lead them to be homeless. Drug and alcohol abuse can heave negative effects on all aspects of ones life, causing one to lose their job, creating a financial mess and losing their home. Their substance abuse caused them to lose friends and family that once would have been there for them and kept them from finding themselves on the streets. Drug addiction and alcoholism can create a downward spiral for the addict, leading to a life of homelessness and self medication to make it through each day physically and mentally.

Vulnerable and Alone

Homeless people who are chronic substance abusers are mos vulnerable, and often alone. Most shelters will not accept a person who is drunk or high, leaving the individual on the streets alone to fend for themselves, which can be very dangerous during the colder months. Homeless that suffer from a substance abuse problem often find it to be difficult to take advantage of any resources provided by their community or social services. In many cities there have been an increase in wet shelters, which allow people to still seek help even if they have been drinking or using drugs, they are not allowed to bring any alcohol or drugs into the facility but are able to get a warm meal, shower and a place to sleep.

Finding a Solution for Such a Complex Problem

Homelessness is a complex problem in itself, adding in a substance abuse problem makes it extremely difficult to change. There have been many temporary solutions put in place, however with the complexity of the situation there needs to be more options to fix the problem as a whole in our society. You can not offer a person a job and home and expect their problems to go away, first professionals must get to the root cause that lead the individual to a life of addiction and homelessness. If these problems are not addressed fully the home they are given will only be a temporary fix.


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Sharon from Ohio

Getting my life back in order was probably the most important thing in the world to me at that point. I was down and feeling hopeless. Thank god there are people who care.

Alex from Florida

I guess when you have a problem you don’t want to admit it. After pretty much destroying everything around me and getting to the point where I was homeless – enough was enough. Thanks to the support and the community that lifted me up I am not over 2 years sober.

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Drug addiction and Homelessness


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