Homelessness And Addiction Across America
There are an estimated half million Americans that are homeless. 45% of the estimated 553,742 homeless citizens reside in California, Florida, New York, Texas, and Washington. Cities with disproportionately large numbers of homeless people include Washington, DC, Boston, New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Clara, and Santa Rosa. Reasons that these cities have such high rates of homelessness include the higher price of housing, being able to sleep on the street, the number of homeless shelters, and the characteristics of the community. Some individual aspects that are tied to homelessness are incarceration, poverty, mental health, social ties, and drug addiction.
Homelessness And Drug Addiction: The Vicious Cycle
Homelessness and drug addiction often go together because of the high cost of drug addiction. An individual with a hard-core heroin addiction may spend $150 to $200 per day, for example. If that person loses his job, he can easily run through his life savings in a matter of weeks.
Many people who are addicted to drugs end up homeless because they can no longer afford housing. Money spent on drugs is money thats unavailable for housing.
Some addicts lose their jobs. Without a steady paycheck, they end up losing their homes to foreclosure or eviction. Homeless and addicted to drugs or alcohol, they find themselves living on the streets. A vicious cycle has begun of addiction, homelessness and more addiction.
It may take an entire team of family, friends and others to help someone break out of that vicious cycle. It may be difficult, but it can be done, and resources are available. It just takes someone like a social worker or addiction counselor who knows and understands what programs are available locally to help families find the help they need for a loved one.
There Is A Major Disconnect Between What Statistics Say And What The Public Believes About Homelessness
Studies show that, for the most part, the public perceives drug addiction as playing a gravely inflated role in causing homelessness. According to the available research, the leading causes of homelessness are the lack of affordable housing and insufficient income. Drug addiction doesnt even rank in the top four. Yet, when these statistics are revealed to the general public, rather than causing an uptick in support for affordable housing construction, what we see is emphatic disbelief in the numbers.
As it stands, when statistics oppose public perception, the public, in turn, opposes the statistics.
One of the most cited reasons for doing so is the idea that these statistics are derived from small research groups, and they are therefore not reflective of the overall state of our nation. This is entirely untrue.
Studies that reveal the leading causes of homelessness are anything but small, and they are not designed to negate the current narrative.
Heres a brief look at just how much research has gone into the research were reporting.
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Homelessness & Cycles Of Drug Addiction And Alcoholism
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How Addiction Leads To Homelessness
Substance abuse is often the cause of homelessness.
Addiction can rupture relationships, lead to termination of employment and cause people to lose a handle on their finances. Subsequently, they may fail to pay their rent or mortgage and lose their homes. With nowhere else to go and nobody with whom to communicate, their options are limited.
The studies speak for themselves. In 2015, the United States Conference of Mayors, a nonpartisan organization for cities with populations exceeding 30,000 people, asked 22 cities to investigate and determine their top three causes for homelessness.
Thirty-five percent of unaccompanied adults cited substance abuse as a main cause of their homelessness. Ten percent of homeless families cited drugs or alcohol.
A life on the streets rarely cures a drug habit. The need to seek help for addiction is routinely put on the backburner for other priorities, such as finding shelter and food.
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Barriers To Substance Use Disorder Treatment In California
The Sacramento Public Health Department has identified several barriers to accessing addiction treatment in the homeless community. The presentation lists the following as probable reasons:
- Housing needs
- comorbidity : simultaneously present medical conditions in an individual
The department also touches on the issues of stigma that surround addiction and addiction treatment. Although substance use disorders might be coated in a negative connotation by society, ignoring the reality of these struggles and the people who struggle daily with this, it hardly improves the situation or health of any person struggling with addiction.
The Sacramento Public Health Department cites the Surgeon Generals Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, explaining that while 1 in 7 people in the United States are expected to develop a substance use disorder, only 1 in 10 people receive treatment.
Myths About Homelessness In Los Angeles
Earlier this month, voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition HHH, which will raise $1.2 billion for homeless services, with most of the money allocated for permanent supportive housing. But NIMBY opposition to homeless services is still very much a thing, and it remains to be seen if neighborhood activists will try to prevent the proliferation of permanent supportive housing anywhere outside of Skid Row.
In other words, Angelenos feelings about homelessness are complicated. Residents want to help those who are suffering, but many of them worry that helping might have negative side effects on their communities.
In the spirit of demystifying homelessness for the sake of helping to solve it, here are some of the common misconceptions about those living on the streets:
7. People without a home come to Los Angeles for the weather
It makes sense, right? Why be homeless in the freezing cold when you could bask in the 290-odd days of sunshine a year in L.A.?
Except its not true. According to the most recent homelessness survey by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, or LAHSA, 72 percent of adults experiencing homelessness have lived in Los Angeles County for more than 20 years, and 87 percent of them have lived here for more than five years.
In fact, people who study homelessness say that the majority of people sleeping on the streets dont venture far from the home where they last lived.
6. Theyre all mentally ill or drug addicts
5. They prefer living on the streets
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Risk Factors: Addiction And Homelessness
Addiction is like an octopus, with many tentacles wrapping themselves around every facet of a substance abusers life. As a substance abuser becomes increasingly dependent on drugs and alcohol, their expenses increase just when their income decreases. They can lose their homes and apartments as well as anything else they own in the pursuit of their next high.
Additionally, substance abusers often become homeless for the following reasons:
- Substance abusers often have bad credit, or lack any type of credit. Its almost impossible to rent an apartment or home without good credit. Yet many substance abusers have ruined their credit scores due to unpaid bills and other issues. That makes it hard to get a new apartment or home when they lose their current dwelling.
- Without a job, its hard to find a place to live. No income means no ability to rent or buy a home. Addicts often end up homeless and on the streets once their resources are exhausted.
- Substance abuse and homelessness in women often stems from domestic violence. Many women flee abusive situations and turn to drugs or alcohol for comfort. They end up on the street, afraid to return to an abusive situation or unable to do so.
- Many homeless drug abusers have prior arrests, making it difficult to find housing. Background checks turn up the prior arrest, and landlords turn them down. This perpetuates the cycle of homelessness, addiction and crime for these people.
What Causes Addiction And Homelessness In America
There are a lot of different factors that cause addiction and homelessness in the United States, the main and the most impinging one already being mentioned above and that being substance abuse in general.
However, there are a lot of other factors to consider too like:
- Divorce or other relationship breakdown
- Mental illness
- Those individuals who previously had housing in the army or other institution
- Failure to receive child support
- A personal tragedy or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Natural Disaster victims
- Inability to get social assistance
- Domestic violence victims
- A wage that is too low to pay for housing
- Poor physical health
- Those individuals who have been socially excluded
- Physical disabilities
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Homeless Substance Abusers Are A Vulnerable Group
Alcohol abusers and drug users can be a particularly vulnerable group within the homeless population. Many shelters will not admit anyone who is drunk or high. This means that such individuals will often be left to fend for themselves this can be particularly dangerous during winter. Such individuals will also often find it more difficult to make use of any available help that is provided by the community or social services. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of wet shelters where individuals can go to even if they have been drinking.
When Addiction Is The Effect Of Homelessness
Many people fall into addiction after they become homeless. This is because homeless people face a lot of significant stressors, including:
- Loss of a home
- Loss of dignity many people are dehumanized by society
- Having little to no money
- Violence they are many instances where they deal with physical or sexual abuse
- Losing hope – there are several obstacles in the way of getting themselves off of the streets
With such major problems, people often turn to substance abuse to cope. While they may receive temporary relief, it only drives them deeper into addiction and makes it extremely difficult to seek and gain employment.
Additionally, the areas populated by the homeless are often dense because they are relegated to certain areas or shelters. Therefore, people find themselves firmly around many other addicted homeless people, which makes it difficult to avoid.
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What Are The Common Drugs Of Abuse
Widely available and relatively inexpensive, alcohol is one of the most common substances of abuse in homeless populations, especially in older adults, notes the National Coalition for the Homeless.7 According to data taken in 7 Western countries, the most common substance use disorder among homeless individuals is alcohol dependence.11 Alcohol abuse contributes to many serious health problems that can be especially devastating for people with limited access to healthcare, including liver disease, cancer, heart disease, and stroke.12
The most commonly abused drugs include:13
- Heroin and prescription opioids.Heroin and prescription opioids are extremely addictive and carry a high risk of overdose.14,15 A 2014 study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that among 457 homeless youth living in Los Angeles, 22 percent were currently abusing prescription drugs.16
- Methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is highly addictive and associated with many physical and mental health problems, including extreme weight loss, paranoia, cognitive problems, and overdose.17
- Cocaine. Crack cocaine, or freebase, is more prevalent among homeless populations than the powder form. Smoking crack cocaine is particularly detrimental to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Cocaine abuse causes serious mental side effects as well, including addiction, paranoia, and unpredictable behavior.18
Increased Demand For Charitys Detox Service Causes Waiting Times To Almost Double
Fifty-four per cent of all people in Dublin Simon emergency accommodation in 2020 have been homeless for over three years. Photograph: Laura Hutton
More than 70 per cent of the Dublin Simon Communitys detox clients last year cited addiction and substance abuse as the primary reason for becoming homeless.
The increase in demand for the charitys detox service caused waiting times to almost double from 29 days in 2018 to 76 days in 2020.
The organisations annual review 2020, which was published on Thursday, said the average age of clients in residential detox services has dropped from 49 to 44 over the last five years.
Fifty-four per cent of all people in Dublin Simon emergency accommodation in 2020 have been homeless for over three years, with 42 per cent for more than five years.
Sam McGuinness, chief executive, said the homeless population is living through the worst crisis we could ever have imagined.
Many of these people spend five years or more in emergency accommodation and are desperate to exit homelessness.
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The National Law Center On Homelessness And Poverty Arrives At Its Conclusions Based On Massive Nationwide Surveys That Took Five Decades To Complete
In January 2015, The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty released a comprehensive guide to homeless data entitled Homelessness in America: Overview of Data and Causes.
To quote the paper directly, in the place where it lists insufficient income and lack of affordable housing as the leading causes of homelessness, it goes on to explain that:
In 2012, 10.3 million renters had extremely low incomes as classified by HUD. In that same year, there were only 5.8 million rental units affordable to the more than 10 million people identified as ELI.
This quote indicates that the study consisted of millions of renters and millions of rental properties. Multiple sources are cited for which the information was derived. Some of the most notable of these include:
The 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, Part 1, consisted of data gathered by 414 distinct Continuums of Care organizations, representing service workers and non-profit providers in what they list as inclusive of virtually the entire United States.
Joint Center For Housing Studies Of Harvard Universitys report entitled The State of the Nations Housing includes five full decades of housing research produced by renowned scholars and academics.
Even armed with the expansive nature of all of these combined studies, NIMBY naysayers might still cry foul. This is why we have presented the view from so many different angles.
Homelessness And Mental Illness
According to the American Psychiatric Association , there is a strong relationship between being diagnosed with any psychiatric/psychological disorder and also having a co-occurring diagnosis of a substance use disorder.
The relationship is bidirectional, such that if someone is diagnosed with nearly any psychiatric disorder, they are at an increased risk to also be diagnosed with a substance use disorder. If they are diagnosed with any form of a substance use disorder, they are also at an increased risk to be diagnosed with some other form of mental illness.
Given the high rate of mental illness that occurs in homeless people, one would expect that there would also be a significantly increased rate of substance use disorders in this group.
Moreover, individuals with more serious forms of mental illness are even more likely to have a co-occurring substance use disorder. They would also be expected to have difficulty providing a home for themselves without significant assistance.
More serious forms of mental illness can lead to problems functioning within society, and this can contribute to homelessness, family conflicts, and social isolation among this group.
Thus, it is more likely that issues with mental illness and substance abuse result in someone becoming homeless than it is that being homeless leads to an increased risk for substance abuse or mental illness.
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Homelessness And Substance Abuse
Homelessness in the United States has become harder and harder to ignore. At least 800,000 homeless people including 200,000 children roam streets or frequent shelters on a given evening. Many have problems in addition to where to rest their head at night or find their next meal.
A rising number of the population turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their situation, often leading to full-fledged addiction. Substance abuse can lead to poor physical and mental health, which makes obtaining employment or residential stability difficult.
Misconception #: Homelessness Stems From Deficiency In Character
When all homeless people are included in the statistics, we learn only 26% of the entire homeless community suffers from a serious drug addiction. This means the overwhelming majority, which equates to 74%, are not addicted to drugs.
Still, the public blames homeless people for their dire state, as if homelessness highlights some sort of pre-existing character flaw.
Fact check: The three leading reasons for homelessness have nothing to do with character. They are as follows:
- Lack of affordable housing
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