Struggling with alcohol addiction is an immensely challenging ordeal on its own. However, for individuals facing homelessness along with an alcohol use disorder, the burden is even greater. The double stigma attached to their circumstances often makes it nearly impossible for them to receive the assistance they desperately need. Regrettably, many people find it more comfortable to ignore homeless individuals struggling with addiction rather than offering them help. This unfortunate reality often leads to countless individuals slipping through the cracks of society’s support systems.
Understanding the Connection between Homelessness and Alcoholism
It is important to dispel the common stereotype that every homeless person is burdened with a substance addiction. While it is true that addiction can be prevalent among the homeless population, it is crucial to recognize that addiction is a disease requiring treatment and support for recovery. By gaining a deeper understanding of alcoholism and homelessness and the ways in which they are interconnected, we can strive to make a positive difference in the lives of those affected.
Homelessness and alcoholism form a vicious cycle, making it challenging to ascertain which problem arose first. For some individuals, alcohol dependence led to job loss, financial struggles, and eventual eviction, resulting in homelessness. On the other hand, some individuals lost their homes first and turned to drugs and alcohol as a means to cope with the hardships of life on the streets, thus leading to alcoholism. Breaking this cycle and addressing both issues simultaneously can prove extremely difficult.
Accessing the Help Needed: Overcoming the Hurdles
For a homeless individual to receive the necessary support, a caseworker at a homeless shelter must secure a housing voucher. Unfortunately, this task is far from easy to accomplish. Subsequently, the caseworker must then find a leasing agent willing to rent a home or apartment to someone struggling with homelessness and alcoholism. Again, such opportunities are few and far between. Even if this feat is achieved, the next step involves accessing treatment for the individual. While some rehab facilities do offer free services for low-income individuals, such opportunities are not guaranteed. Sadly, there is a severe lack of support options available to help formerly homeless individuals adjust to their new homes and lifestyles.
Mental Health and its Role in Homelessness
Mental health plays a significant role in the connection between homelessness and alcoholism. Many homeless individuals with substance abuse disorders also suffer from mental health issues. These may include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), particularly prevalent among military veterans, as well as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, and mania. Substance abuse often becomes a coping mechanism for these individuals, exacerbating their mental health challenges. Likewise, these mental disorders can also contribute to their homelessness.
Individuals grappling with mental disorders or disabilities often face difficulties maintaining employment. The stigma associated with mental health concerns often prevents workers from receiving the necessary insurance coverage or time off to address their mental well-being. Combined with work-related stressors, this can lead to a breakdown or panic attack, ultimately resulting in job loss. Such an event can intensify stress levels and contribute to mental instability. When individuals are unable to secure alternative employment, they may find themselves on the streets, unable to afford rent or meet their financial obligations.
A homeless individual with a history of mental health disorders is at a high risk of developing a substance addiction, even if addiction was not the initial cause of their homelessness. The loss of home, job, and relationships can drive a person to misuse substances as a means of coping. Moreover, when someone feels they have nothing left to lose, seeking treatment may seem pointless. Having already experienced the loss of employment, home, friends, and family, many individuals feel hopeless about the future and may not see the value in pursuing sobriety. Thus, it often falls upon third parties