All along the coast of California, there are growing homeless communities. Though most of these people are either temporarily down on their luck due to job loss, eviction, or other unexpected crisis, a significant number of homeless individuals are struggling with a mental health disorder. In both groups, substance abuse and addiction often play a role.
In California, the question is not only to determine how best to assist those facing homelessness and how to protect others in the community in the process but also to identify some of the root issues contributing to the inability to find stability and helping to prevent more people from joining the fold.
Is homelessness threatening someone living with drug addiction in your family?
When Drug Addiction Leads to Homelessness
There is no doubt that use of substances can spiral out of control and take a heavy toll. In a domino effect, the consequences of continued drinking and drug use can ultimately lead to homelessness, even if it feels impossible at first. Someone with a job or who comes from money can easily lose their employment or their marriage, or spend all the money they have, leaving themselves with no way to pay rent and no one to take them in. Homelessness is never the plan, and almost always a surprise result, but by that time, addiction has set in so overwhelmingly that the focus remains not on physical health and safety but on getting and staying high no matter what.
When Homelessness Leads to Addiction
There are a number of reasons that someone may end up living on the street. They may be struggling with a mental health disorder, have no friends or family to care for them, be unable to maintain a job for some other reason, or lose their job through no fault of their own. The loss of a loved one who provided the financial support in the home may be the cause, or homelessness may be the only way to escape abuse at home. These issues in combination with the instability and fear that come with being without a home can contribute to the urge to drink and use drugs, a means of emotional escape when things are at their most difficult.
As in every situation, however, drug and alcohol use only worsens the existing problem and contributes to the development of addiction, a devastating disorder all its own.
Hope on the Horizon
A new piece of legislation is up for discussion in California, AB 3171, a bill that would allocate some of the $6.1 billion surplus in the state budget to address the issue of homelessness across the state. Because it is clear that the opioid addiction issue is an ongoing and rising problem in the US and clearly a contributing factor to the rate of homelessness across California, the hope is that some of that money will be allocated toward helping people and families living on the street who are living with addiction to connect with treatment and other lifesaving resources. Harm reduction efforts, increased funding for nonprofits serving the homeless community, and increased staffing for Medicaid offices that can help homeless people enroll in drug addiction treatment if needed are all worthy uses of the money.
You Are Not Alone
Lee Brand, Mayor of Fresno, knows firsthand what it is like to have a family member struggle with both drug addiction and homelessness. When he was a councilman, his daughter was living on the streets after being kicked out of multiple family homes due to an ongoing and untreated addiction. Today, she is living in recovery in another state and doing well, but back then, she and her family were in crisis.
It’s a feeling that Mayor Brand has not forgotten. He said: “I know personally the pain parents go through. The hard part is not to enable them.”
Drug addiction and homelessness can strike any family at any time, and if it has hit your family, you are not alone. The time is now to reach out for support – not only for your loved one but for yourself as well. Truly comprehensive care for family addiction includes therapy and support for concerned and involved family members. Is today the day you and your family make the call about treatment options?
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