Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Homelessness

Take a look around you each and every day, you have seen the person on the street that obviously does not fit into the picture. This person will most likely be male, further will be disheveled, and will most likely carry some baggage. You have seen this person most likely today.

Did you ever think that this may happen to you? Today the economy in the United States is adding to the homeless population at an alarming rate. Situational homelessness from the economy is the same as the person who is homeless stemming from an addiction from any substance that impairs.

Homelessness is homelessness! The person that works with you that is dressed well, smells good, may have just lost his or her home due to a bad variable mortgage that exceeds what his or her income could sustain. They may have spent every last dollar from savings, pensions, and investments to try and make it work, but simply could not. The end result…Homelessness. These folks may have some family, friends etc that will take them in for their current situation merits it, however…just as it is with the people on the streets that are disheveled, dirty and foul of mood, how long will it take for the person that lost his or her home to wear out the welcome with the myriad of friends that he or she may have?

It has long been said, that guests that are staying for the holidays usually start getting moody after three days. Fish is the same way, if its not taken care of it will start to smell, and to get that smell away is a chore of the ultimate challenge.

Your best friend of 15 years, lost everything, and is staying with you, but after day three, he or she you find out is not a clean freak as perhaps you are, you find out that he or she, loves to watch cartoons, and you are the news channel junkie, and guess what…there is only one TV. Eventually there will be a significant problem, and your guest will be either asked to leave or volunteer to, but none the less both parties will have a permanent mark on that friendship.

Here is where it gets interesting. In this authors opinion, every single homeless person has a story, in most of the individuals I have spoken to, they started their homeless career after a death of loved one, loss of job, or medical issue, and only as of recently, a very bad variable rate adjusted mortgage.

Friends play a large part of the homeless cause and effects. Eventually each and every one of us will know someone, perhaps immediate family, co-worker, friend of friend, it does not matter, you will know of at least one person that went homeless. What you do as friend or family, will forever impact the person that is fresh from losing everything, whether at-first you help them, and you later give them the boot, it will forever affect them. Interestingly enough, it will be the very last action that effected the new homeless person, that they will remember!

A homeless person has a substantial challenge ahead of them, they have to learn to negotiate social services, which at this point in their lives, they most likely have no idea where the office to start is located, and more importantly, the mental condition of this new homeless person is not entirely to stable.

This is the element that seems to start the most damage in the fastest time. The new homeless individual is going to be looking for “crutches” such as whatever they liked when they were solid with employment and housing, I would have to say the immediate crutch is going to be alcohol. Its still by far the easiest item to obtain, and you will find some high potency alcohol for little money, however the new homeless person has to figure this out.

Over the course of one month, the new homeless has not maintained hygiene, has lost weight, shows significant physical signs of stress and exhaustion etc, perhaps been sleeping in his or her car, at a shelter, or the worst of all, outside, in the unprotected.

The new homeless tragedy through the “underground” homeless network in every major city, is at least eating, he or she knows that there are multiple places to get food, and recently was told that he or she could go the Social Services office and participate in a welfare program, that would generate to them personally a couple hundred dollars a month! After a month on the street with nothing, this is a huge accomplishment. Almost instantly the person does what he or she needs to do to be half way presentable to do what is required, to gain the $200.00 to sustain their life. Its at this point that the mental position of this person if noticed, can be manipulated to into a variety of areas.

This new homeless person is battling several issues that is promoting the “on-the street” mentality. This very person that you once knew as a powerhouse thinker or perhaps an all-around nice person, is stuck in a mode of thinking that is strictly survival at best. No matter WHAT! This is the time that will start generating law enforcement interaction. Perhaps this person has already picked up a open container citation, or urinating in public charge, or this authors personal favorite, improper use of a shopping cart. Its these extremely minor charges that cause some serious issues that I will cover in one of the next articles.

This General Relief as it is known in California, is an all purpose safety net, or at least that is what it was designed to do. This GR was meant to be used very short term, for items such as acquiring a birth certificate, for those that lost their identification, paying for state identification costs, perhaps buying a prepaid cellular phone, so one could at least make calls, basically and myriad of issues that would significantly help to get one on their feet. However, this is not what happens. Come the first of the month through the first couple of weeks of that same month, the payouts for the “GR” are issued.

Its at this time, that positive action could be initiated, however its the new homeless, or perhaps better stated, the seasoned homeless, can buy liquor, or with the help of the underground network, start purchasing items that are a tad more expensive than liquor, but…do the numbing job of liquor much faster, and as far as the bang for the buck…this would be it. Now, you have a person that is drinking, and followed the gateway drug alcohol into the realm of controlled substances and uncontrolled substances.

I would imagine being that your reading this letter from a loved one, educator, or social worker point of view, I would bet that your asking what happened at the place that this person was able to get the “GR” assistance, was there no interaction with the “client” at that point, was there no interviewing, or direct contact with this person? The answer is yes, there was indeed “through the glass” contact!

Pride is a huge factor still in the new homeless person even after some time in the streets. The intelligent case worker or screener should indeed know this as part of their training, or at least listen to some of their Intuitive ESP. Think about it, the person meets every single visual criteria for being homeless, they show the signs of chemical abuse, wouldn’t a very good case manager be able to take some decisive action, and point their “fellow brother or sister” in the right direction, and help them significantly at this first point of contact?

The answer is an overwhelming NO! Department of Social Services in California is simply at best a cattle line, people come in and they go out, most of them if they chose to eliminate pride are taken care of fairly, they are given vouchers for single room occupancy hotels, General Relief, and food stamps. In the streets this is the “Grand-Slam”. However the hotel expires in 30 days. “GR” and the food stamp program are limited as well, there must be some paperwork filed, and evidence of job searching. California does have a program that is mandatory to attend, which teaches folks how to look for, interview for, and appear for a job. This program goes as far as helping each graduate with the clothing for the interview process.

Again…the evil PRIDE presents itself in an incredible manor. This person who perhaps 6 months ago was working, drove a car, had a home, and wore considerably better clothing, finds him or herself presented with people that are his or her equal, and yet pride holds out yet again. This is a major contributing factor to the chronic homelessness problem. PRIDE!

The overall accomplishment of finally getting some cash, food stamps, and a small place to stay, is a huge accomplishment. This person is going to celebrate this accomplishment! Fresh off the simple feeling of accomplishment, this person is going to start spending money negatively, this person will buy more expensive alcohol, and will purchase a bit bigger quantity of the escaping drug that he or she was introduced to very recently. This formerly very responsible person will manage to rip through the “GR” money, and will find out through the “homeless underground” how to now sell their food stamps for cash, to earn a few more dollars.

In the next article, We will discuss the second and subsequent cycles of homelessness and addiction, and will start to reveal some techniques that are just now beginning to show promise when approaching the homeless population for getting them off the streets and into services!