With approximately 690,000 people homeless in the United States, many are living in shelters, in cars, and on the streets. Addiction does not discriminate, and the homeless community is one population that struggles with this. Homeless people are particularly at risk for mental illness, which also ties into substance abuse for self-medication and coping mechanisms. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) stated that in 2016, 1 in 5 people experiencing homelessness also had a mental illness, with similar numbers experiencing a substance use disorder. This group of individuals are in desperate need of support and resources.
To begin, what causes homelessness? The National Alliance to End Homelessness has noted several reasons why a person may become homeless:
- If no affordable housing options are available, low-income people face eviction, instability and homelessness
- Low-income families cannot afford food, clothing, transportation, and housing
- Disability and conditions such as heart disease, HIV/AIDS, and diabetes may cause someone to lose their home and resources because they can no longer support themselves
- Many survivors of domestic violence have no other place to call home
A person of any race, gender, and ethnicity can become homeless, and members of the LGBT community, rural residents, and veterans are at increased risk for homelessness, mental illnesses, and substance abuse disorders. The National Coalition for the Homeless states that substance abuse is often a result, not a cause, of homelessness. People will abuse drugs and alcohol to help them cope with their problems. This only further exacerbates constraints on financial security, health, and safety.
Many homeless individuals suffer from overdoses, and opioids take a sizable percentage of those. Thankfully, there are some steps being taken to help those in desperate need. For the past 3 years, there has been an undisclosed, supervised safe injection site that has so far assisted more than 100 people and supervised approximately 2,754 injections. The majority of those that received an invitation to utilize this facility’s services are homeless, and the site can monitor their injections to ensure their safety and to provide them with information on seeking treatment.
President Trump has signed on for added mental health benefits to veterans, which could also aid in reducing the numbers of those who die by suicide in our homeless population each year. We need to change the stigma surrounding homelessness and start providing more resources to those in need – the only way we can help one another through addiction, substance abuse, and mental illness is to share love and support.
New Vista Behavioral Health is home to several world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery treatment programs. If you are ready to begin your journey to recovery, call us today at 888-316-3665 for a consultation.