One unfortunate misconception is that individuals who are homeless are all either alcoholics or drug addicts. It is true that a high percentage of homeless individuals struggled with substance abuse and addiction, and that it can be either a cause or result of homelessness. However, there is a lot more to understand about the condition in order to move forward in reducing the problem of homelessness in America.
Some Truths about Homelessness
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development's June 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress showed that on a given night in January 2010, over four hundred thousand individuals across the United States were homeless on the streets, in shelters, or in transitional housing programs. Among these individuals, sixty-two percent were male, thirty-eight percent were female and twenty-one percent were under the age of eighteen.
In 2003, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that approximately thirty-eight percent of homeless people were dependent on alcohol, and another twenty-six percent abused drugs. It was found that older homeless individuals were more likely to abuse alcohol, while younger homeless individuals were more likely to abuse drugs. It was also reported that substance abuse problems were more common among homeless individuals than among the general population.
Some other causes of homelessness can include natural disasters (such as a tornado or flood), sexual assault or other domestic violence, insufficient education, and more. Regardless of the cause, the individual finds himself without the basic necessities of life, including shelter, food, clothing, and such.
In some situations, an individual may have become homeless for some other reason and turned to substance abuse as a result. It is not uncommon for drugs and alcohol to be used to cope with problems in life, and it can be said that homeless individual certainly has their fair share of problems. Unfortunately, substance abuse fails to resolve problems and often exacerbates them, creating for some homeless individuals a continuing state of homelessness. With a lack of motivation for change, little or no family contact and support, and the fact that rehabilitation treatment and help may be less available to homeless individuals, such individuals may continue to suffer from substance abuse problems indefinitely.
Are most homeless people addicts and being homeless can I still receive addiction treatment?
Not all homeless people are addicted to drugs and alcohol, although a great number end up homeless due to addiction. Homelessness and addiction are seen as going hand in hand, but there are large numbers of homeless people who are not addicted to any substance. A homeless person can, of course, receive addiction treatment; in fact, many homeless shelters have support staff and volunteers and are directly connected to treatment programs of some kind. This means that an itinerant individual can be referred to a treatment center for drug and alcohol addiction and receive the same help anyone else would receive.
The Value of Homeless Shelters
There may be as many different types of homeless shelters and shelter services as there are causes of homelessness. Some shelters simply provide the individual with a bed, meal, and temporary roof over their head, while other shelters are more thorough in aiding the homeless individual or family. When homeless individuals are experiencing problems with substance abuse and sometimes even mental illness, a shelter can often help them get out of the endless cycle of street, jail, and emergency room.
In addition to providing the basic necessities of life, some homeless shelters can also provide counseling and rehabilitation treatment, essential life skills instruction, and sometimes even continuing education or career resources. These shelters are a valuable asset to our homeless and our country and are helping to address and resolve a problem that affects millions of individuals every year.