Content reviewed by Karen Rubenstein, LMFT, Chief Clinical Officer at Cliffside Malibu

Several factors can contribute to why individuals experience homelessness, including lack of affordable housing, poverty, unemployment and substance use disorders such as addiction. While addiction does not always lead to homelessness, it sheds a light on increased risk factors that can make an individual more vulnerable to experiencing homelessness. Addiction and homelessness both can feel like recurring cycles. Wherever you may find yourself during your journey of addiction and recovery, it is vital to stay connected with treatment and other resources to fight homelessness for yourself and others within your community.

Many people stereotype individuals that struggle with addiction and homelessness as one and the same. However, many people struggle with addiction without being homeless and vice versa. Substance use and abuse can contribute to homelessness, but it often takes time and worsening consequences without treatment entry or engagement.

How Can Substance Use Contribute to Homelessness?

Both mental health and substance use disorders alike can lead to homelessness; however, they do so indirectly. These conditions contribute to homelessness through:

Increased Interpersonal Conflict and Impaired Relationships

For example, addictive behaviors can lead to interpersonal conflict, especially with close friends and family members. Addiction to substance use or other behaviors can cause long-lasting changes in the brain, which can contribute to changes in an individual’s mental, social, emotional and cognitive functioning.

Once an individual engages in substance use repeatedly, they will experience behavioral changes that work to prioritize substance-using and substance-seeking behaviors above all else. As a result, more time, energy and attention are spent on using substances rather than fostering healthy relationships. Slowly but surely, an individual’s home environment becomes less inviting. Roommates, family and other loved ones will eventually no longer tolerate such behaviors within the home environment and ask the struggling person to find somewhere else to live.

Job Loss and Financial Struggles

Similarly, substance use can contribute to job loss and other financial struggles. This is sometimes more significant than interpersonal conflict, as an individual begins to prioritize their substance use purchases above all else. As a result, an individual may become homeless because they are unable or unmotivated to afford the cost of living. For individuals struggling with severe addictions, homelessness is perceived as a better option rather than stopping substance use. This is not a result of moral weakness, but rather the result of substance use.

Inadequate Resources for Those in Recovery

Another reason that addiction may contribute to homelessness is that there are inadequate resources for individuals that may have previously used substances but are currently in recovery. Society’s stigmas and stereotypes of “drug users” not only perpetuate a lack of treatment entry and engagement but also perpetuate repeated substance use as it makes individuals feel isolated and worthless.

As a result, many occupations and organizations will not hire individuals in recovery. There is also a lack of resources for individuals that are in recovery but may not yet be able to get back on their feet financially. It is important to shed light on these programs not only for individuals that are currently struggling but also for those that may find themselves struggling with homelessness in the future.

What Types of Programs Are Available for the Homeless?

Knowing what unique resources are available to help you and your loved ones find stability again is essential. Housing and shelter programs are two significant resources that address the root causes of homelessness through recovery support services.

Some of these programs include:

  • Emergency shelters: Emergency shelters are a vital resource to have access to after experiencing an economic shock. These services act as the first line of support and offer a wide range of treatment resources and other services.
  • Transitional housing: Transitional housing is known as a temporary place of residence. Transitional housing programs often offer temporary homes for up to 24 months while helping families move into more permanent housing.
  • Permanent supportive housing: This type offers safe and stable housing environments for families, with voluntary and flexible services to help those struggling with mental health and substance use disorders. An example of permanent supportive housing may include sober living homes.
  • Case management services: Case management works to help patients collaboratively by addressing all of their needs. They will help them find and secure housing as well as secure other resources that are necessary to maintain housing stability, including but not limited to:
    • Health insurance
    • Childcare services
    • Medical treatment
    • Psychological services
    • Food
    • Clothing

If you find yourself struggling with substance use, it is crucial to seek out treatment as soon as possible to avoid any worsening consequences, such as impaired relationships or job loss that can lead to homelessness. If you know of anyone struggling with addiction and homelessness together, there are resources available to help them get back on their feet and ultimately overcome their addiction. It all starts with a willingness to change and a belief in one’s own ability to change.

Cliffside Malibu is a comprehensive addiction treatment center that understands how homelessness can play a factor in your repeated or recurring substance use. We can connect you with assistance programs, transitional housing and sober living homes as you receive treatment from our facility. We want to help you break the cycle of addiction and homelessness that may be occurring in your life. To learn more, call us today at (855) 403-5641.