Addiction and Homelessness in Los Angeles
The Connection Between Addiction and Homelessness
The rising concern of addiction and homelessness within California and, specifically, Los Angeles has become a sweeping epidemic across the state and the country. Thousands of Americans each day will not know where they will sleep tonight. With many shelters becoming overcrowded, residents of Los Angeles are forced to find a place to sleep on the streets without access to their basic rights and human needs. In 2020 alone, there were 41,290 Los Angeles residents experiencing homelessness. Of those 41,290 individuals, 28,852 people were unsheltered and looking for solace within the streets of Los Angeles.
Many predisposing factors can influence a person’s chances of being homeless. For some, it may be due to loss of employment, an ongoing mental health concern, or a physical ailment that prevents your ability to maintain steady work. When someone is experiencing addiction and homelessness, it can create barriers for the individual to find stable employment or permanent housing when your focus is on your addiction and avoiding feeling the uncomfortable, sometimes painful, withdrawal symptoms.
Drug addiction often comes after a person has become homeless. Typically, when individuals face the crisis of losing their housing while navigating the homeless shelter system and, in many cases, having to live on the street creates a new set of challenges and barriers that impact your ability to cope. This situation leaves many to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with the high-stress environment of homelessness, including finding food sources and meeting basic needs of shelter and personal hygiene. For many, looking for compassion and love from others is lacking due to the social stigma associated with homelessness.
Homelessness in Los Angeles Statistics
Los Angeles residents that have been experiencing the devastating effects of homelessness are rising at an alarming rate. This growing epidemic affects residents of all ethnic backgrounds, age ranges, and genders. While the state of California is working to find solutions to this exceeding concern, there is more need than ever for an immediate answer as more and more Californians face the dangers and risks associated with homelessness.
Here are some sobering statistics that highlight the severity of this epidemic facing thousands of Californians each day:
- 63% of the homeless population in Los Angeles are individuals facing homelessness for the first time. 53% of those individuals have entered into homelessness due to economic reasons.
- There has been a 24% increase in youth experiencing homelessness within Los Angeles.
- Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Los Angeles has seen an increase of 50% compared to 2019 in relation to opioid-related overdose deaths.
- Nearly 1 in 4 Americans living in homelessness reside in Los Angeles. This contributes to the fact that Los Angeles is the highest-ranking city in the United States, with homeless people living on the streets without shelter.
- The corresponding adverse effects of homelessness and addiction often can lead people to commit acts they would have never done before to obtain access to their basic needs or to maintain their addiction that results from their stint in homelessness. This has increased criminal activities that have nearly 137,000 Americans being incarcerated for criminal acts they have committed.
- Nearly one-half to three-quarters of the homeless population have entered into a substance abuse disorder.
- It has been reported that nearly 33% of homeless individuals face a co-occurring mental health disorder that often pre-dates their entry into homelessness.
- Two-thirds of the homeless population within LA alone are suffering from a mental health or substance use disorder.
Reasons for the Rise In Homelessness in Los Angeles Due to Addiction
With the rising number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles today, many wonder how we have gotten to this point and what could have been done to prevent this from happening. There is a common misconception that homelessness is a chosen lifestyle. This myth could not be farther from the truth as it is doubtful that anyone would wish to have the hardships of homelessness bestowed on them. Many factors contribute to a person entering into homelessness, such as:
- Financial restraints and hardship: For many Californians, the rising rent prices make it challenging to secure a rental home and maintain the cost of living. Nearly 1.3 million Californians do not make enough income to meet the rising high costs of rent within the state.
- Employment loss or job insecurity: Often for residents of Los Angeles, there can be challenges in maintaining or finding secure employment. Often, individuals may be experiencing untreated mental health conditions or substance use disorders that, when untreated, can create challenges in maintaining employment. At the same time, others may have lost their job and struggled to find another position, leading to an inability to pay rent and, therefore, losing your housing. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many Americans, and Californians, lost their jobs and places of business began closing down. This economic downturn has impacted Californians’ ability to maintain or find stable employment.
- Mental health: Some reports suggest that nearly 33% of the homeless population in California experience mental health issues. When mental health goes untreated or undiagnosed, it can escalate problems for the individual to function through day-to-day life.
- Survivors of domestic abuse: Reports have shown that women escaping domestic violence situations are four times more likely to experience housing instability or homelessness.
- Individuals who were formerly incarcerated: When someone has served time in jail, there is often a stigma placed on that individual, creating a lack of trust within potential landlords and rental programs. This, unfortunately, leads many to turn to the streets for refuge upon their release from an institution.
- Young people aging out of the foster system: Youth exiting the foster care system are at higher risk of experiencing addiction and homelessness due to the lack of family support as they navigate the world of solidifying housing on their own and move into adulthood. One report shows that almost 30% of foster children leaving the system will experience homelessness before the age of 24.
Co-Occurring Disorders and Homelessness
One of the most significant gaps in services that we see when trying to support the homeless population of California is the lack of knowledge and support for those who are experiencing mental health conditions. With over 50% of the homeless population in Los Angeles alone experiencing a coinciding mental health concern, it is clear that more needs to be done to intervene for our most vulnerable population.
Often, those who are experiencing homelessness do not have access to medical care or have insurance. Without access to necessary medical care, individuals will not have the ability to obtain psychiatric care for their mental health needs, leading to a worsening of the symptoms being felt from their disorder.
Typically, individuals living in homelessness and on the streets will experience higher levels of stress and crisis, impacting someone’s mental health functioning and worsening the symptoms and side effects of their existing condition. This often leads to the use of substances to mitigate the severity of symptoms felt from your co-occurring disorder. As you progress with self-medicating, individuals often find they have entered into the spiral of addiction that has created a whirlwind of problems on top of their pre-existing concerns.
Seeking Shelter and Addiction treatment in Los Angeles
At Muse Treatment, we firmly believe that housing is a human right, and so is the right to a life free of the pain of addiction. We work closely with our patients to develop an individualized treatment plan to help you target your substance use disorder while you reside in our safe and secure treatment facility.
Our team will get to know your specific situation and bouts with addiction and homelessness to understand where you have come from to build a plan for where you want to be. Our patients receive exceptional individual therapeutic care that will target any co-occurring disorders such as mental health or physical conditions as well as gain perspective on the root causes of your addiction. Through our mental health recovery programs and dual diagnosis programs, you will learn effective means to manage your mental health disorder while learning skills to prevent relapse behavior.
Our caring team understands that you have come to us from hard times experiencing homeless and will do our best to support you in finding a stable, healthy environment to call your own. We offer our patients opportunities for family therapy where you can begin to rebuild any lost connections and relationships that will help you give you a solid foundation of support for your new life in recovery. If you want to learn more about the alcohol and drug rehab programs offered within Muse Treatment, contact one of our understanding, compassionate team members at (800) 426-1818 today to get you started on your journey to stable sobriety.
— Muse Treatment (@MuseTreatmentLA) December 1, 2021