The Tragic Relationship Between Substance Use and Homelessness
Why We’re Fighting Back Against “Housing First’s” Biggest Mistake
For decades, substance use and homelessness have had a mutually destructive relationship that has dragged and trapped millions of vulnerable people and families into a costly and deadly churn of recidivism. Dependence on harmful and illegal substances can be all-consuming, making it extremely difficult to keep a job, care for family or overcome homelessness.
There was a day, not long ago, when scientifically-based responses to the issue of homelessness prevailed. Root causes were addressed openly and honestly and effective interventions, stabilization, treatment, and recovery were prioritized to promote healing and overcoming. Professionals knew that homelessness could happen as a consequence due to severe substance use.
But science was thrown out and replaced with what is now becoming recognized as one of the worst policy mistakes around housing and humans since the failed tenement experiment that sprung from President Johnson’s War on Poverty - Housing First.
Housing First sees housing as a cure to addiction. The DSM-5 is the universally recognized medical community diagnostic tool used to establish a substance use disorder. It classifies the most severe of conditions as when a person has six or more criteria, forming a problematic pattern of compulsive drug seeking and using that continues despite repeated negative consequences.
If you were to ask the Overcomers of Solutions for Change if homelessness occurs as a negative consequence of repeated compulsive substance use, you would get an immediate “of course!”
The toxic relationship between substance use and homelessness is one that has been enabled and exacerbated. This blog and the dozens like it that are springing up across the nation aren’t here to cast blame. They are pointing out that substance use and homelessness is a toxic mix that can and must be solved. Housing alone will not solve homelessness unless we address the root causes of homelessness like substance use and codependency. Join the fight against the dangers of Housing First and help us lift people out of The Churn for good.