Addiction and Homelessness: How to Help a Loved One at His Lowest


addiction and homelessnessBy some estimates, between one fourth and one third of all homeless persons suffer from drug or alcohol problems. Drugs may be the cause of or the result of homelessness, but the connection between homelessness and substance abuse is beyond question. If someone close to you has suffered from drug addiction and has taken to the streets, that person’s long-term prognosis will not be good, but you will have options to help that person and to recover him from a life of harm and decay.

Helping a Homeless Loved One

Your initial reaction when you discover that someone you love has become homeless will likely be akin to panicking. You will feel a need to head out into whatever streets have claimed your loved one to bring him or her back to your abode. Panic reactions are normal, but they may not be the best option. Your ability to help a person that you care about will be enhanced if you first calm yourself down and force yourself to move deliberately and with proper planning and strategy. Rescuing your loved one with no consideration of how to address his or her addiction problems is, at best, a temporary solution. Before long, if untreated, your loved one’s addictions will push him or her back to the street.

When you have calmed yourself and recouped your perspective, do some research into homeless shelters and addiction recovery programs that are designed to help homeless persons. A day or two of research will show you the available options, and you can choose the best option for the person you are trying to help. If you then re-connect with that person, you can take him or her directly to the shelter or center, where treatment for both the homeless problem and the drug addiction can begin.

Addiction and Homelessness

Many addicts who have lapsed into homelessness will sense that they have hit “rock bottom”, and that sensation may lead to a feeling of desperation that can drive a homeless person to do whatever is necessary to survive. Because of this, a homeless person might need to address legal problems in addition to his or her drug addiction. Be prepared to retain an attorney who can be your loved one’s advocate if legal problems do threaten to interfere with his or her recovery.

Even under the best circumstances, recovering from drug addiction can be a years-long process that requires commitment from both the addict and from his support community. When an addict has fallen into homelessness, the challenges will inevitably be greater. A homeless addict will need to restart his finances, find a place to live after he is out of any rehab facilities, and start a program of counseling to address his addiction and any psychological issues that can threaten his stability. You will best be able to help him by supporting and encouraging him in these endeavors and by making sure that he is adhering to whatever plans or structures you helped him to put in place. Ultimately, the homeless drug addict will need to resolve to help himself. Your role is to keep your loved one on a path that helps him do that.   


Please call the Sustain Recovery Services at (949) 407-9052 for more information on how you can help a loved one in your life who has become homeless, and for assistance in creating a recovery program that is specific to his or her situation.


  • Lise Delia Topaloff

    I have a 28 year old son who has been a addict for 10 years. He will not come and live with me and he tries to get clean but he always goes back to his old ways. He tried to get into rehabs but was always told the facilities were full. He really needs help cause I’m afraid his days are numbered. He lives in his own place which is covered in mold and is no longer livable. I’ve tried very hard to help him with the rent and things so he doesn’t stay on the street but it’s getting hard for both of us. He really wants to go to rehab and he wants to get help but it seems he has no place to turn to. Please help him

  • Thomas Seaman

    I am a 25 year old male. I have 2 kids and a wife. I am doing well, my brother who’s 29 is homeless and an addict. He’s been homeless for 3 years now. My dad who is his step father has tried to help him, unfortunately there’s never enough structure and always negative energy from my step mother. I want to help him and it kills me everyday thinking about him. I’m at a spot in my life where I can put some money towards him. Everyone else has given up, and I can’t. Unfortunately I don’t know where to start. I’ve been doing some research and I just don’t know what steps to take now. How do I get him to take my help? What should I have in place before getting him into a rehab or other program. Any help is appreciated. Thank you

  • Judy Batdorf

    I have a fifty year old daughter that is an alcoholic and homeless. She has given up custody of her son. I don’t know what to do.

  • Jim boston

    My son has fallen victim to meth abuse and homelessness. Your article makes sense but the hard part i am having is facilities want him to go get an assessment done before they will admit him. This is extremely difficult to obtain from someone who has lost all hope. I have not found a facility that can recognize someone who had an addiction problem even when they admit it to them without a professional telling the facility that yes this individual needs help. I am 3 hours away from where my son is so trying to get any assessment done is terribly difficult. He has gone to the emergency room more then 10 times this year with meth induced psychosis and all that is done is they let him sober up and release him. These hospitals know my son is homeless and is a victim to meth but no social workers or people are sent to talk with him or offer him treatment. Its frustrating

  • Shelby Thibert

    My 19 year old son is homeless and has done crystal meth and smokes Marijuana a lot to cope. He refuses to go to a homeless shelter because it’s a trigger, it’s too easy to get meth and he’s been robbed and beaten up at shelters. I can’t have him in my home as I have a younger child that doesn’t need to see any of this and I just don’t know what to do or where to go for immediate help.

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