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What Are the Facts on Alcohol and Homelessness?

People who are alcoholics are sometimes forced to live a life of homelessness. In Canada alone, there is an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 people at any given time that do not have a home. They live in places like shelters, cardboard boxes, tents in the wooded areas, or simply out on the streets. Unfortunately, many of these people are also chronic users of alcohol and drugs.

Alcohol and Homelessness

When someone is addicted to alcohol or drugs, it becomes an all-consuming thing. The disease of alcoholism begins to take over a person's life and become the one thing that they are dependent on. This dependency overwhelms a person so that their life is not important, except for the drink of their choice. Spending their money on beer, wine, and bar tabs is more important than a mortgage, food, and other essential items. After a while, they find themselves homeless and addicted to alcohol.

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Family Breakdowns

Recent surveys have shown that many of the people who are homeless today have been married at one point. Most of the time the point at which the marriage broke down is when the homelessness began. This was due in part to the amount of alcohol that was being consumed.

Homelessness and Illness

Staying out on the streets during the year presents many challenges to the person who is an alcoholic. They must continually search for the next drink and sometimes resort to unhealthy habits to do so. Drinking what is leftover in discarded bottles or cans, diving into dumpsters full of other refuse, and even doing unlawful acts to get enough money for buying a bottle. Illness is rampant among those homeless and an alcoholic. Alcohol poisoning is fairly common as these people are usually malnourished and consume alcohol quickly when they get it.

Special Programs for Homeless Alcoholics

One of the ways that the government is trying to get a handle on the problem of alcohol and homelessness is through special programs aimed specifically at this sector of society. One such program is called MAP. This stands for the Managed Alcohol Project. The program itself is experimental and controversial. MAP is a shelter-based program that works to minimize the damage done to the person while they are ingesting alcohol. The alcohol is dispensed on an hourly basis in small quantities. This helps the alcoholic with their need while also making sure that they are not damaging their body further. After a certain amount of time, the person is able to remove the dependency of alcohol and begin to piece their life back together.

Alcohol and Homelessness Costs

It is estimated that homelessness costs hundreds of millions of dollars for the government to support. This is not counting the many non-profit organizations that work to provide food, clothing, and shelter to those who are homeless. Alcohol treatment programs, however, is also not factored into these numbers. There has been quite a bit of progress made in helping those who are homeless and alcoholic, but there is still a lot of need. Donating towards a charitable organization that helps fight this growing problem is a worthwhile effort.

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Sylvain Fournier

Sylvain Fournier | Bio

Across Canada, there are many different treatment options to choose from, private, government-funded, inpatient, and outpatient. See More