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Is There Substance Abuse Within Most of the Homeless Community?

To be direct, no, there is not. The word “most” implies that the majority of people experiencing homelessness have some kind of substance abuse problem, which statistically is not the case. Having said that, it would be dishonest to say it’s not a problem.  

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the homeless community’s substance abuse rate is significantly higher than the general population.

Specifically, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 35 percent of people experiencing homelessness suffer from some type of substance abuse or addiction. This includes both alcohol and drugs besides tobacco. 

In some cases, this addiction is part of the reason the person became homeless in the first place. Substance abuse is often accompanied by depression and other mental health issues, not to mention the financial drain that comes with addiction.

In other cases, a person may not become addicted to a substance until after they become homeless. In this case, it’s typically being used as a coping mechanism when their lives are falling apart, which eventually leads to addiction.

Regardless of how or why someone develops an addiction, it’s a proven fact that helping someone get clean and sober has a dramatic effect on their physical health and their ability to reclaim a healthy life. 

This is why there are so many programs focused on rehabilitating those battling homelessness— it is essential to getting them back on their feet.

Hear Glenn discuss this question and others with Andy Bales, CEO of LA’s Union Rescue Mission in this month’s episode of Real Hope. Listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.