Homeless Addiction and Substance Abuse Disorder

How can we prevent homelessness?

There are many methods in which together, as a society, we can prevent people from ever having to experience homelessness.

First, we can work to create a more equitable society where some groups of people do not experience extreme levels of poverty and all people have access to housing they can afford and job opportunities with adequate pay. 

This enables families and individuals to be able to fund the housing, food, and other basic necessities they need to survive, as well as additional room in the budget to save for emergencies.

Secondly, we can create a safety net for individuals and families who do find themselves at risk of homelessness by providing temporary support through diversion, financial assistance, counseling or other services that prevent individuals and families from entering into homelessness

Preventing Homelessness Once Individual/Family Falls into Risk of Homelessness

Homeless Prevention

As evident in the name, homeless prevention works with people before they lose housing.

It is an approach to solving possible homelessness by empowering a person to identify safe, immediate, and appropriate alternatives to entering the homeless services system, such as shelters. 

An organization helping with diversion will work alongside a person or to family brainstorm possible solutions to the issue(s) threatening their housing stability, with an emphasis on trusting the person to be an expert in their own solution as they regain control over their housing crisis.

Homeless Prevention strategies range from connecting a neighbor to rental support available in the community, helping a neighbor apply for social support like disability, medicare, or food stamps to help them meet their budgetary needs, or helping them connect with family or friends who can provide them a place to stay while they back on their feet.

Sometimes an organization works with a landlord to ensure that a neighbor can stay where they are currently residing, to work through any issues that could result in eviction, or organize a payment plan for repayment of missed rent. 

The organization can then act as a mediator to develop a resolution that will allow the household to stay in their current housing. The goal of diversion is the lightest touch possible so community resources are available to those who need them most.

Homeless prevention is often a preferable approach to immediately placing someone in a shelter because it can be more cost-effective, it can ensure necessary shelter beds are available for those who need them most, but most of all, it prevents an individual or family from experiencing the trauma of homelessness.

Employment & Education Services

Job readiness training and job-seeking support offered to people at risk of homelessness can help neighbors achieve higher wages and higher quality jobs.

When a person is working one or two minimum wage jobs, they often have little leftover in the monthly budget (after rent, food, utilities) for emergencies or rental increases. 

That’s why employment services can be a critical tool for helping people compete in the modern job market and obtain jobs that pay above minimum wage.

People experiencing poverty and homelessness can encounter a number of factors that can prevent them from gaining quality employment including ​​limited education and skills, varied job histories, misplaced legal documents, limited access to transportation, cosmetic difficulties, such as missing teeth, and physical and behavioral health conditions.

According to San Diego’s Point-in-Time count report (2018), 30% of individuals polled reported a loss of job as the primary cause of homelessness.  

Through hands-on training, education, and job development, employment programs, such as Father Joe’s Villages Employment & Education Center, foster empowerment and provide tools for facing the complicated, competitive world of employment.

Preventing Homelessness by Creating Housing

There are thousands of organizations across the world implementing solutions to alleviate poverty and inequality.

At Father Joe’s Villages, we help to reduce and prevent extreme poverty by working to expand affordable and supportive housing opportunities in our community.

Affordable Housing

Housing becomes less affordable when the housing supply cannot keep up with the demand for housing in a region.

When housing becomes less affordable, the budgets of low-income families and individuals are squeezed, leaving little room for anything but survival. In fact, half of all San Diego homeowners don’t make enough money to meet the region’s cost of living, with 60% of local renters falling short by thousands of dollars per year.  

By building more affordable housing in the community, organizations help to reduce the pressure on low-income neighbors and provide more affordable options for those that need it most.

Affordable housing enables folks to maintain housing long-term because the housing stays within a price range that is proportional to their income bracket.

Through the Turning the Key initiative, Father Joe’s Villages committed to adding 2,000 units of affordable housing dedicated to neighbors overcoming homelessness, on top of the over 400 affordable units already offered by the organization. Learn more here.

Supportive Housing

Supportive Housing, sometimes referred to as Permanent Supportive Housing, is housing that is reserved for people with a physical disability, mental illness or long-term substance use disorder who need regular support to maintain housing stability. 

While Supportive Housing is provided to people who have been homeless, this type of program prevents ongoing and future homelessness for at-risk individuals with a history of chronic homelessness.

Residents of supportive housing communities receive a long-term rental subsidy that is sensitive to their income and ongoing support services to help them maintain their housing. 

At Father Joe’s Villages, for example, Case Managers help clients set and achieve goals and get connected to resources, while Tenant Services Coordinators teach life skills and host social activities that build community.

A Registered Nurse provides wound care, patient education, and medication management. 

Supportive housing is a compassionate and dignified solution to homelessness for people who would otherwise struggle to maintain housing on their own. Often, supportive housing is the best solution for addressing or preventing chronic homelessness amongst people with severe mental illness and debilitating disabilities.

However, communities often don’t have the resources to provide supportive housing to all the individuals who may benefit from it.

For that reason, building and raising funding for new supportive housing communities can be critical for preventing homelessness for people most in need.

In Conclusion

Homelessness prevention programs and associated initiatives are often a cost-effective and compassionate approach to preventing individuals and families from living without shelter on the streets and entering into the cycle of homelessness.

The treatment of “addiction” has always been somewhat controversial. Only in recent decades have doctors and the public come to accept substance use disorder as a medical condition rather than a moral failing that should be punished with incarceration and stigma.

To many, addiction is a choice and people with substance use disorders can stop using drugs if they really wanted to. This idea can often be harmful. Addiction is an illness that affects the brain and changes the way it functions. Once an individual crosses the line into addiction, their control over their behavior is greatly diminished. They become consumed by the need to use. 

With this understanding, many behavioral health specialists and addiction counselors are realizing that addiction should be treated like other illnesses—with medication. Additionally, this has led to the utilization of the term substance-use disorder instead of the term “addiction”.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), use of FDA-approved medications in combination with evidence-based therapies can be effective in the treatment of substance use disorder and may help recovering users stay in treatment longer, extending periods of sobriety and paving the way for successful recovery.

Medication-assisted treatment has become one of the most important and effective treatments for substance use disorder. This form of treatment helps people using substances to regain control of their lives and achieve their goals–whether those goals are housing, employment, and/or recovery.

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Medication-assisted treatment is a proven method of treating substance use disorders like opioid addiction or alcoholism. It involves the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to help people stop or moderate the use of substances and reduce the risk of overdose.

Medication-assisted treatment provides a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. To ensure the best possible outcome, treatment should be tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual patient. The clinician and patient work together to assess strengths and challenges to develop an individualized treatment plan.

Medication-assisted treatment is now considered one of the most important and effective treatments for substance use and alcohol use disorders. Medications can stabilize a person so they can become a productive member of society and move towards wellness. 

What are the Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment?

The benefits of medication-assisted treatment include:

  • Facilitating safer withdrawal by relieving physical and psychological symptoms.
  • Controlling cravings.
  • Increasing retention in treatment with controlled medications.
  • Decreasing illegal drug use and, with it, the potential dangers and legal consequences.
  • Preventing relapse when integrated with counseling and behavioral therapies.
  • Being safe and cost-effective. 

How Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Work?

Of all the challenges faced by those in recovery, perhaps the most common form of relapse is thinking that, “maybe this time is different; maybe I can just have one drink or one hit and I’ll be okay.” This is why medication-assisted treatment can be so beneficial; it removes the craving and ensures that the chances of staying clean remain strong.

Medication-assisted treatment combines behavioral therapy with medicines such as methadone or buprenorphine. These medications block the effects of opioids and reduce cravings, making it easier for people to stop abusing drugs and get their lives back on track. These medications can replace the need for substance use as safely as insulin replaces pancreatic function in people with diabetes.

According to the American Medical Association, the prescribed medication works in terms of brain chemistry by blocking the euphoric effects of the drugs used, to reduce physical and psychological cravings and normalize the body chemistry over time.

It’s important to understand that medication-assisted treatment isn’t just a replacement for drugs—it’s a treatment that works alongside other therapies and lifestyle changes to help people recover from their addiction.

Research shows that a combination of medication and psychotherapy treatment, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), is more effective in treating substance use disorders than either approach alone.

What Medications are Used in Medication-Assisted Treatments?

Medication-assisted treatment is effective for substance abuse because it helps people control their cravings and withdrawal symptoms while they work on other aspects of their recovery.

The most common forms of medication-assisted treatment include:

  • Naloxone (Narcan): This medication is used to quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
  • Methadone Maintenance Therapy: Methadone works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, blocking the euphoric effects of opioids.
  • Disulfiram: Disulfiram is the most effective medication for those who have already completed the detox process and are entering into the early stages of recovery. Disulfiram serves as a deterrent by producing unpleasant side effects when/if an individual consumes even the smallest amount of alcohol.
  • Naltrexone: Naltrexone blocks the euphoric effects of alcohol intoxication. This medication helps individuals disassociate alcohol from pleasurable feelings and experiences. 

How the Integrated Services at Father Joe’s Villages Help

Father Joe’s Villages offers a whole range of services all aimed toward helping clients accomplish their goals, including behavioral health, mental health and medical services through our Village Health Center.

The depth and breadth of our services gives clients the tools tailored to their own individual needs so they can triumph over any complexities and barriers they may face in their journey out of addiction. We offer a Harm Reduction approach to overcoming substance use disorders, and recommend medication-assisted treatment plans based on each individual’s unique needs. 

  • Village Health Center: Offers medical, dental, addiction counseling and mental health resources to help clients to live their healthiest lives. We help our neighbors reach their goals and overcome mental health, physical health and substance abuse barriers to income, housing and happiness. Learn more >>
  • San Diego Day Center: Offers dignity services such as showers, mail and a safe environment. We connect people living on the street to resources: local substance abuse groups, detox and rehabilitation centers, medical services or Father Joe’s Villages’ housing programs and supportive services. Learn more >>
  • Emergency Shelter & Transitional Housing: Provides clients a warm bed, clean linens, storage for their belongings, hot meals and access to the wide range of services, which allows them to reflect on their goals and future instead of just survival and safety. Clients can then work with Father Joe’s Villages’ supportive services to remove barriers to more permanent income and housing. Learn more >>
  • Permanent Supportive Housing: Supports people living with disabilities with housing and coordinates services based on individual needs, abilities, goals, and preferences. Learn more >>

Recovery is possible. It’s never too late. Medicated-assisted treatments help individuals struggling with addiction regain control of their lives, relationships and futures.