There’s no place like home. Coming home at the end of the day to a warm place to rest and be with family is something everyone can look forward to. Unfortunately, not everyone has this privilege. This is why every year on December 3rd, National Roof Over Your Head Day is observed across the United States as a way to be thankful for what we have, starting with a roof over our head. Sadly, addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders are huge factors in the homelessness problem in America.
National Roof Over Your Head Day was created as a way to spread awareness of the homeless issue that exists everywhere, including extremely well-developed countries. Roof Over Your Head Day acknowledges that not everyone has this basic need, and encourages everyone to take steps towards finding a solution.
Homelessness and Addiction
Sadly, addiction and homelessness often go hand-in-hand. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, in January 2017 there were approximately 554,000 people experiencing homelessness in the United States. Usually, the end result of homelessness is substance abuse. Similarly, substance abuse often contributes to homelessness.
The National Coalition for the Homeless has discovered that 38% of homeless individuals are alcohol dependent while 26% are dependent on other harmful substances. As far as the connection between homelessness and addiction, it is not a simple matter of one causing the other. The unfortunate stigma surrounding addiction would imply this, but addiction can both be a cause and result of homelessness.
When an individual is homeless, addiction can result when a person turns to substance abuse in an effort to cope with the difficult conditions of living on the street. Some of these conditions include:
- Finding meals
- Lack of shelter
- Threat of violence
- Struggling with physical illness
- Mental health issues
- Being alone
Homeless and Mental Health Disorders
There is a strong connection between mental health and addiction. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, an estimated two-thirds of the homeless population have a substance use disorder or other chronic health condition. Additionally, about 30% of people who are homelessness struggle with a serious mental illness. Such significant physical and mental health conditions create difficulties in maintaining stable housing for themselves and their family.
Many individuals struggling with chronic homelessness suffer from schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder or major depression, according to The Treatment Advocacy Center. These serious mental conditions are often co-occurring disorders along with addiction. People with poor mental health are more susceptible to the factors that contribute to homelessness including poverty, disaffiliation, and vulnerability. Many mental disorders cause individuals to withdrawal from friends or family, which leaves them without a support system.
Unfortunately, homelessness only amplifies poor mental health. The stress of living on the street perpetuates mental health symptoms such as anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and substance use. This is why mental health and addiction services play an important role in combatting the homelessness issue.
Appreciating What You Have and Helping Others
When you are having a bad day, it is easy to feel down or depressed. However, if you have a warm place to stay and a roof over your head, there is still much to be thankful for. This holiday season, take the time to appreciate the shelter that you have and acknowledge those who are not so fortunate. The best way to do this is to be a solution to the homelessness problem.
While many of us aren’t able to financially provide housing to those less fortunate, there are steps we can take to motivate others to help out. Spreading awareness in order to motivate our local leaders to take the right steps is one way to work towards a solution. Volunteering your time to a homeless shelter, mental health or addiction treatment center, or sharing your own story of recovery are also excellent ways to work towards ending homelessness. Roof Over Your Head Day is a time to give others new opportunities while being thankful for what we have.