Addiction and Homelessness: Correlation or Causation?

Most people consider a home to be a necessity. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world today, having a home has become more of a luxury that only a select number of people can enjoy. This is even the case in some parts of America. In fact, homelessness has become a growing issue in the United States in the last decade or so. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, more than 578,000 Americans were sleeping on the streets in as recent as 2014. What could be the cause of this? Recent investigative studies have shown that there is a connection between substance abuse, addiction and homelessness.

What Defines Homelessness?

homelessness - more than 578 americans sleeping on the streetsFor most people, homelessness is temporary. With this in mind, defining homelessness can be tricky since the situation varies from person to person. Still, most would describe homelessness as a lack of adequate and permanent residence. The circumstances of homelessness that people typically experience might include:

Being Completely Unsheltered

People in this state of homelessness may be living on the streets, sleeping in cars, camping in public spaces like parks, or taking up residence in abandoned or condemned buildings.

Being Temporarily Sheltered

People in this state of homelessness may be using emergency shelters or transitional housing as opposed to living on the streets without any protection.

Being Doubled-Up

People in this state of homelessness rely on friends or family for temporary accommodations.

In any case, the connection between addiction and homelessness is becoming more and more apparent, especially with the studies being released to show the correlation.

The Roots of Homelessness

35% were struggling with substance abuse disordersAccording to the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), the growing rates of homelessness reflect a number of active economic, health, and personal lifestyle trends in this country today. Most of the time, homelessness is the result of factors like:

  • Lack of access to affordable healthcare
  • Lack of public assistance programs
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Lack of job opportunities
  • Home foreclosures

Still, there are other reasons outside of changes in the economy that can cost people their homes. The NCH cites both addiction and mental illness as two significant contributors to homelessness. These findings are also backed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), which reports that roughly 26% of America’s homeless population suffers from some form of mental illness while an overlapping 35% were struggling with substance abuse disorders.

The Effects of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness on the Rates of Homelessness

Investigations from several organizations yielded similar results. In fact, the 2014 U.S. Conference of Mayors Survey found that almost 43% of the 25 different city populations surveyed considered mental illness and substance abuse—as well as inadequate treatment for both— to be two of the primary causes of homelessness in America. This same study found that roughly two-thirds of the people surveyed believed that substance abuse (independent of mental illness) was the number one reason for homelessness among single adults in America. Similar results were found in a separate research survey, where two-thirds of the homeless focus group cited drug or alcohol abuse as a major contributing factor to their homelessness.

Additionally, the data collected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that more than 50% of the homeless individuals living shelters struggle with either substance addiction, mental health disorders, or both. This is especially problematic since addiction and mental illness have been proven to variably inhibit any given person’s ability to build and maintain a stable life. After all, substance abuse disorders and physiological disorders— especially concurrent ones— often feed into the depressive and delusional self-destructive cycles that can ultimately lead to homelessness.

Substance Abuse and Homelessness: Does One Cause the Other?

Substance abuse can affect anyone for any number of reasons. Nearly 23.5 million people in America turn to substance abuse to cope with stress, loss, or other forms of dysfunction in life— and a fraction of them may become homeless as a result. Years of research suggests that substance abuse disorders and concurrent mental health issues are far more common among the homeless than among other demographics. In fact, it has been determined by multiple sources that:

  • roughly 38% of homeless individuals abuse alcohol
  • alcohol abuse is more common among older homeless adults
  • roughly 26% of homeless individuals abuse drugs (but not alcohol)
  • drug abuse is more common among younger homeless adults

The correlation seems pretty clear: substance abuse disorders and any co-occurring mental health issues are the roots of homelessness for many people. And, unfortunately, this can make addiction treatment a bit of a challenge.

Addiction Treatment Options for the Homeless Population

Homelessness, are they getting addiction help?It goes without saying that those who are homeless don’t have access to the resources necessary to make getting addiction treatment possible, like health insurance or transportation. Without these things, and without access to appropriate addiction treatment, many homeless people remain trapped in a cycle of poverty and substance abuse that will only worsen other areas of health, like physical and mental health. Unfortunately, less than one-quarter of homeless people struggling with addiction are able to receive the treatments they need for a successful recovery. Thankfully, this issue has been gaining more attention in recent years, and many addiction treatment facilities are beginning to implement programs to help the homeless who are facing problems of substance abuse and mental health disorders.

While psychiatric hospitals and emergency rooms are usually where addicted homeless individuals go to seek treatment, other options are slowly becoming more and more available. Several addiction treatment facilities share many of the same characteristics when it comes to treating homeless individuals. These include, but are not limited to:

  • a compassionate and experienced medically trained care staff
  • integrated services (i.e., dual diagnosis treatment programs)
  • comprehensive and holistic services
  • access to stable long-term housing
  • personalized treatment plans

All of these factors of addiction treatment for the homeless are equally important, and the only kind of facility to encompass all of them and more is residential addiction care.

Addiction and Mental Health Help at TTC’s Residential Care Facility

Overcoming substance addiction and all the emotional and mental turmoil that comes with it is a feat that requires intensive care, personalized treatments, follow-ups, and unconditional support. These are all things that many homeless people might not have access to— at least, not without help. If you know someone who is struggling with homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness, or other similar issues all at once, please call The Treatment Center’s Residential Care facility at (844)310-9546. Help TTC Care make a difference.

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