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Homelessness and Substance Abuse

It is well-known that drug abuse and alcoholism have devastating effects on a person. It’s not unusual for someone to lose their job, friends, and family because of an addiction. Some people, however, hit rock bottom, as many would consider it, when they lose everything and become homeless on the streets.

Homeless Camps

Hundreds of homeless people live around nearly every large city on our country. Some areas have become havens for those that are down and out, and sometimes these people form camps or colonies for safety and companionship. Alaska has a group of homeless that live in large parks, hidden among the trees. Other large groups can be found in San Francisco, Denver, and Washington D.C. These camps are not legal, but some municipalities or counties tolerate them simply because they don’t have a better place for these people to go, and if they are kicked out of one area, they will move to another.

These people hide out in forests, or in parks, eating scraps, or begging for food or money. Their beds are benches, or the ground, and they may build fires in garbage cans to keep warm. A few lucky ones will have tents to live in.

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Homeless people around the country come from all different backgrounds. Not all were born homeless or even poor. Many of them at one time held decent jobs, some had families; none of them expected to be where they are today. Many of these individuals have something else in common: substance abuse. Statistics are hard to come by, but substance abuse and mental illness play a huge role in many of these people being homeless. Some people got caught up with drugs or alcohol, causing them to lose their jobs, family, and eventually homes. Others spent all their money and energy on getting alcohol, and soon found themselves out on the street. Still others have a form of mental illness that keeps them from living a stable life. In all these situations, these people could not find or would not accept the support and help that would have allowed them to overcome substance abuse or mental illness and lead normal lives.

Help for the Homeless

In order to help these people, we need to provide them with housing, food, and treatment for substance abuse and mental disorders. Once the person is living indoors and does not have to worry about their own personal safety or where their next meal will come from, they can start working on their future.

Many of these people, however, don’t get the treatment they need to get clean when they are homeless. Lack of resources from local authorities has led to poor facilities and programs for these groups. Many homeless people go through the motions of staying at a shelter until their time is used up there, then they move back out to the streets. With the right kind of help, these people can break the cycle and begin putting their lives together.


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