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It’s not surprising to most people that homelessness has a strong connection to addiction and substance abuse. In fact, it’s almost an expected pairing. In a 2008 survey, 25 cities were asked what their top three leading causes of homelessness were, and substance abuse turned out to be the leading cause reported by 68% of the cities in the study. Though the public does not usually empathize with those who are addicts and homeless, it is not always that addiction that causes a person to become homeless – it is rather an unfortunate habit that is picked up as a coping method for other pains and struggles. However, often times the addiction is the direct cause of homelessness.

The Causes of Homelessness

Substance abuse is not always the cause of homelessness – in fact, addiction is often developed when drugs and alcohol are used as a coping method for a deeper issue. The causes of homelessness vary, some at the fault of the person, and others at the fault of society. Some causes may be:

  • Problems with debt
  • Mental illness
  • A physical disability
  • An abusive/disruptive upbringing
  • PTSD or a personal tragedy
  • Unemployment
  • Lack of Affordable Health Care

People who are homeless range from young kids, to military veterans, to the disabled elderly, and – yes – to alcohol and drug abusers. In January 2014, there was nearly 578,424 people, in the United States alone, that were homeless.

Substance Abuse and Homelessness

Some who are homeless are homeless because of their addiction to drugs and alcohol. Addictions can cause a rift between family members, and the person with the addiction – often times – chooses to drug or alcohol over their friends and loved ones. A younger person with an addiction to drugs or alcohol could leave home, deciding that they would rather be homeless and have their “fix” rather than have a home and live without the addiction. Older citizens are often plagued with debt, due to their addictions, and can lose their home after choosing to spend money on the addiction, rather than their home.

However – more often than not – homelessness is the cause of addiction and substance abuse, rather than the effect. People who are homeless are suffering with much deeper, emotional and physical issues that have cause them to become homeless. Whether it is to escape an abusive home, a result of suffering from PTSD, or a mental illness, these people may not have had any addictions previous to their homelessness. As a way to cope with “rock-bottom” these people turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain they are feeling. They are unknowingly contributing to the problem, rather than decreasing their suffering. In a 2003 study, it was found that out of the homeless population, 38% were dependent on alcohol, while 26% were found to abuse drugs.

What Can We Do About It?

The public perception on the homeless has been changing, and more resources have become available for those who are homeless to be cured of their addictions, and improve the quality of their life. In fact, the chronic homeless population has decreased by 21% since 2010. However, continued improvements must be made to prevent homelessness, and help those who are currently homeless.

Contact Serenity Acres today if you or a loved one is at risk of becoming homeless due to a drug or alcohol addiction. Our dual diagnosis program treats both the cause of addiction, and the addiction itself to ensure a recovery.


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