More Than a Quarter of Homeless Report Chronic Substance Abuse


risks of heroin

To some, it may be surprisingly fewer than expected and to others surprisingly more: The Washington Post reports that about 26.6 percent of people who make their home on the street are living with a chronic drug and alcohol abuse problem. This number is based on a survey of about 600,000 homeless people in the United States done in 2013. About 33 percent of respondents were living on the street at the time, and the rest were living in a shelter or other form of temporary housing.

Of those living in shelters, it was found that 19.3 percent were struggling with ongoing substance abuse. About 60 percent of those who were living on the street were struggling with drug or alcohol abuse or addiction.

The study was done by the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a group that is working to provide permanent homes to at least 100,00 people who are currently homeless.

Why Does It Matter?

Aside from the humanitarian factor, there are a number of issues that arise from high rates of homelessness. Increased crime, the high cost of unpaid healthcare, and other community issues are associated with high rates of homelessness. It can be difficult for local government infrastructures to support the cost of medical care, homeless shelters, food assistance, and welfare that are usually part of the equation. Additionally, when our homeless are not cared for as they should be, it can result in a cycle of poverty when children enter into the picture.

Many programs that work to provide permanent housing and services to homeless people require that they demonstrate that any substance abuse issues are under control. Addiction is not something that someone can simply turn off at will, thus homeless people who are struggling with the disorder may not even be able to access available services that would help them to change their circumstance.

Which Came First?

Many people wonder whether substance abuse and addiction force people into a state of homelessness or if addicted homeless people developed their drug dependence after they found themselves living on the street.

In most areas, it is a combination of these scenarios. It is important for those who are homeless and struggling with addiction that they not only get help for addiction but for co-occurring disorders as well. If, for example, a mental health disorder preceded both the state of homelessness and addiction, then that will require treatment for long-term recovery.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for those who continually sink deeper and deeper into addiction to find themselves without anywhere to live. For some, it’s the final wakeup call that they need addiction treatment – and they need it now.

If someone you love is struggling with addiction, contact us at Axis today and find out how we can help them experience the rehabilitation and treatment they need to heal.