A fairly new approach to helping alcoholics is causing controversies across the country. Wet houses, or homes for hopeless alcoholics, are open and operating in places like Seattle, Washington, and St. Paul, Minnesota, and other cities are looking into it also.
These facilities provide housing for homeless alcoholics, while allowing them to continue drinking. The rooms are modest, the amenities few, but residents are usually provided with medical treatment by an on-site nurse practitioner, and most importantly, are allowed to drink.
Supporters of Wet Houses
The explanation for this kind of housing for some supporters is the money that is saved. Every year homeless alcoholics use resources when they are taken to emergency rooms for care or prison to serve a sentence. By providing safe housing and minimal medical care, states can save millions of dollars. The cost for housing at one of these wet houses is $13,000-$18,000 per resident per year.
Opponents of the Housing
Opponents argue that this is inhumane and that we should never give up on alcoholics like this. When the residents move in, they are surrendering any hope of recovery. They are, in essence, entering an alcoholism hospice. The operators of the wet houses don’t try to hide anything; most do not offer any treatment programs or counseling. It is simply a place for alcoholics to drink themselves to death. Neighbors of such facilities are unhappy with the danger that having such a house in the area can pose.
A Place to Drink
But many people believe in the theory behind these homes for alcoholics and it doesn’t have anything to do with money. All the residents have tried and failed at rehab, and keep finding themselves hopelessly dependent on alcohol again. They have lost all hope for a sober future, and are actually happy to be in a place where they can drink. For many, there is no family, no job, and no money. Most have no real relationships with other people; their relationship is with alcohol and that’s how they want it to be.
It is such a sad fact that there are people that have completely given up hope for recovery. Some people truly believe that a wet house or “bunks for drunks” program is the best they can do. This is unfortunate because there are great stories of people beating the odds to become sober. It might not be easy, but many people fight to break free and get sober, and rebuild those broken relationships. But sadly, some people don’t see it that way and have resigned themselves to drinking until they die. If there is any bit of hope, we need to help these people grab on to it. We also need to work to keep more people from getting into this desperate situation.