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Substance Abuse and Homelessness

Clinically Reviewed By Dan Schimmel, LCSW, CAP
Updated On

Substance abuse often times contributes to a person’s financial problems, thus leaving them homeless. At the same time, substance abuse is also a consequence of homelessness, with people turning to this habit because they don’t feel they have anything else in their life.

Homelessness and Drug Abuse

According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, homelessness and substance abuse go together hand in hand. Here is a statistic from the council that will open your eyes:

“It is estimated that nearly half of all individuals experiencing homelessness, and 70 percent of Veterans experiencing homelessness, suffer from substance abuse disorders.”

There is a question of whether or not substance abuse leads to homelessness or homelessness leads to substance abuse. While there is no definitive answer, it is safe to assume that both circumstances hold true.

Sobriety Tests for Housing

Many homeless people with a substance abuse problem find it difficult to locate housing. The reason for this is simple: most shelters require a sobriety test before a person can gain access to their services. For this reason, these people are screened out of the system, with their only option being to find housing on their own, which is often times a near impossible task.

There are people who turned to drugs and/or alcohol to better cope with being homeless. And then there are those who ended up in this situation because their addiction led them down the wrong path.

In addition to homeless shelters and other types of public housing, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness continues to focus on other solutions. These include things such as permanent supportive housing with support services. This ensures that these people not only have a place to live, but that they can also receive treatment for their addiction along the way.

Of the people who are homeless in the United States, approximately 50 percent suffer from a substance abuse disorder. This is a large number and one that many organizations are attempting to cut into.


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