The Link Between Homelessness and Substance Abuse

There is a negative stigma that surrounds individuals experiencing homelessness and substance dependency. A good percentage of individuals who are homeless do struggle with substance abuse but should be viewed as an illness in which they can overcome. There are many reasons why substance abuse is common among people experiencing homelessness.

Someone who is using substances can hurt relationships between family, friends, and coworkers. This can lead to loss of job and personal relationships which can eventually lead to losing your home.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, “A 2008 survey by the United States Conference of Mayors asked 25 cities for their top three causes of homelessness. Substance abuse was the single largest cause of homelessness for single adults (reported by 68% of cities).” 

Substance abuse can be both a cause or result of homelessness. Substances can be used as a way for individuals to deal with the stress and issues that come up after losing their homes. For some, substance abuse is seen a way of temporarily escaping from real-world problems.  Unfortunately, oftentimes substance abuse intensifies their problems, making it more difficult to attain employment and improve their conditions.

People experiencing homelessness may be struggling with a form of mental illness and may also use substances as a way to cope with their illness. Someone who is experiencing homelessness, mental illness, and drug addiction may face increased challenges when trying to improve their conditions. Many programs that help people with substance abuse do not allow people with mental illnesses and vice-versa. Consequently, individuals face deeper obstructions to obtaining the resources they need for proper rehabilitation and remediation.

Homelessness, mental health, and substance abuse are all big issues happening today, and stronger, more efficient programs are needed more than ever. Programs for people experiencing homelessness should be allowed treatment for mental illness, and substance abuse simultaneously to increase the chances of improving their conditions.


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