The aim of this research is to define whether or not drug and or alcohol abuse are contributing factors to becoming homeless. It is not easy to establish a correlation between addiction, homelessness and substance abuse; however this research aims to determine the answer through the collection of both qualitative and quantitative data in the form of a questionnaire.
2.1 This research intends to discover whether there is a correlation between homelessness and drugs/alcohol abuse? In England homelessness has been accepted as a social norm, although ethically this should not be the case. In 2002 legislation such as The Homelessness Act was brought in for local authorities to prevent homelessness. My interest in the topic arose after attending a programme with Tenant Support a voluntary organisation, regarding an early intervention of alcohol abuse, which aimed to prevent people becoming homeless due to addictions, the question arose, does substance abuse contribute to becoming homeless, and what can be done to help prevent this? In addition to this can becoming homeless create an addiction or alcohol/drug dependency? 3.0 Homelessness
3.1 What is homelessness?
Homelessness is viewed as individuals/families finding themselves in a situation where they have no secure accommodation to live in. According to Amore et al ‘How homelessness should be defined is a fundamental and persistent problem’(2011:2).
3.2 Under the 1996 Housing Act a person or persons are defined homeless if: There is no accommodation that they are entitled to occupy
They have accommodation but it is not reasonable for them to continue to occupy this accommodation They have accommodation but cannot secure entry to it;
They have accommodation but it consists of a moveable structure, vehicle or vessel designed or adapted for human habitation and there is no place where they are entitled or permitted both to place it and to reside in it. Any one meeting this definition and who has successfully applied to their local authority to be classified as such is officially recognised as being homeless’. Firth, (2010, :3)
3.3 The effects of homelessness
The effects of homelessness can often include or lead to; loss of self-esteem, discrimination, vulnerability, substance abuse, criminal activities, self neglect, sexual and psychical abuse. For example, ‘some homeless women act strangely and neglect personal hygiene as a way to protect themselves from attack’. Many homeless people are discriminated against due to the fact that some people just look down at them and presume that there in that situation due to there own doing.
4.0 Substance abuse.
4.1 What is substance abuse?
The term substance abuse means the use of any substance such as; drug or alcohol, to a degree that is deemed hazardous. According to Firth (2008:1) ‘Some drugs, such as morphine, have medical purposes. If they are used for other reasons, or in unnecessarily large quantities, then the term ‘drug abuse’ is applied’. 4.2 The effects of drug abuse
The effects alone can be devastating so in conjunction with homelessness can result in the devastation of lives. Some of the effects of drug abuse are: loss of job, social exclusion, increased criminal activity, family breakdowns, psychical and psychological effects. One example of social exclusion is that people tent to alienate others that used drugs due to the prejudice and stigma attached to them. People often over see the underlining contributing factors that first caused the drug abuse in the first place.
4.3 Possible prevention strategies
Early intervention could be brought in at the very start of substance abuse i.e. an employee turns up for work on a number of occasions under the influence of alcohol or drugs and inevitably gets fired as a direct result of turning up for work under the influence, the employee does not see the employer again as in his opinion he has fulfilled his role. It is at this point a vital chance for early intervention has been missed. If the employer had perhaps signposted the employee to the correct services for some help and support with the high risk drinking, then this issue may have been recognised and steps could have be taken to help and perhaps prevent further misuse.
5.0 key debates
5.1 Despite attempts from the Government and local authorities, Homelessness remains a significant issue. From the homeless people interviewed for the primary research (see appendix three), a large percentage of them have the view that the Government does not do enough to help them. The department for Communities and local Government suggest ‘the most effective way of preventing a large rise in the numbers of repossessions is to address the public deficit and make sure that interest rates remain low funding for debt advice services’ therefore reducing the possible numbers of potential homeless.
5.1 Many of the questionnaire participants have no Intention of stopping the re-occurring drug/alcohol abuse or even have self realisation that there is a problem. The Government should perhaps put in place educational talks seminars in schools to do with drug/alcohols and the dangers of misusing them and what to do if an individual finds them self in a position of homelessness so they have some knowledge of what to do or where to go for help, guidance or assistance.
5.2 Perhaps the Government should review the content taught in schools today, According to Chabot 2012 ‘The current structure works for lots of students, who have lots of structure and high expectations at home. But society and families are not the same as 30 years ago. The school hasn’t changed we need to adapt. On the contrary is the role of education to socially engineer children? Graph A
5.3 Results of the distributed questionnaires clearly show that the main cause of homelessness is a break down in family relationship. According to Firth (2010: 40) ‘The breakdown of family relationships has been identified as the main cause of homelessness’ Additionally,
5.4 Graph B shows the results from the question ‘since becoming homeless have you used alcohol/drugs’? Clearly the results show that from the sample of the homeless community that filled out my questionnaires, once an individual finds them self in the position of being homeless then the use of drugs/alcohol develops. ‘Some people may view drug and alcohol use as necessary to be accepted among the homeless community’ (Didenko and Pankratz, 2007). Graph B
The Evaluation of my research has proved my hypothesis wrong, homelessness is not always primarily caused by drug/alcohol related abuse, my findings show that a breakdown in the family is a major contributing factor to homelessness. Furthermore once an individual finds themselves homeless a drug/alcohol issue arises for various reason; such as; to numb the pain, to forget, boredom and because they generally enjoy the use of substances. 6.0 Methodology
6.1 Initially I read around the topic using secondary sources (see literature review) but to secure a deeper understanding and obtain my own results I undertook a primary piece of research. I created a questionnaire which had a mix of open and closed questions, which I submitted 20 throughout the homeless community that attend YMCA Project in Warrington town centre. The reason for choosing the YMCA to submit my questionnaire was the fact that the YMCA run a night shelter for the homeless in Warrington, and provided other various services that work closely with the homeless community. 6.2 After undertaking some research about the YMCA and talking to staff members it seemed the most effective way for the homeless to participate in the research was to be there in person offering a free cup of tea coffee to willing participants.
The results will be analysed and put in to a table so a clear distinction of these results can be seen. I will then try to draw some comparisons to the secondary source data and information obtained from Firth (2010). 6.3 The aim of the questionnaire was to try and identify what help is already accessible for the homeless or substance misusers, what is readily available, and is it equally and easily accessible to everyone who needs it, should they want such services. . 6.4 The questionnaires created consisted of fourteen questions. The first question was to establish the age group the participant comes under. The next five questions are regarding homelessness and the details surrounding becoming homeless. There are two questions regarding the use/misuse of drugs and alcohol. The following four questions are in relation to services regarding drug/alcohol and homelessness. Finally the last three questions ask whether the participant thinks ‘Do the Government do enough to help prevent homelessness?’, ‘What changes would you like to see for the homeless?’ and ‘any other comments’?. I chose not to administer my questionnaire directly as this would have a direct response on the answers the participant would give. I handed out the questionnaire and asked the participant to fill them in on their own thus ensuring that they could take their time and it would be more objective and the result more valid.
However, because I was in the vicinity and had provided tea this may be considered as pressure and could have had an impact on the type of response they gave. After analysing all 20 completed questionnaires, I found that the main reason for the cause of homelessness was in fact due to a family breakdown. I compiled all the findings from question 3 ‘what are the reasons for becoming homeless’ and the results are shown in table A below. 6.5 The conclusion that was obtained from the questionnaire results, is that many homeless people believe the Government do not do enough to help them, but my figures show that a large percentage have been or are currently in the process of being re homed, which suggests that the Government is doing more than is perceived by the homeless community. This is not necessarily tackling the underling issues that caused the homelessness in the first place. So should the Government be contributing towards the underlining issues that primarily make that person homeless? This could include delivering a service to the homeless community, which identifies the problems and gives the knowledge to empower them to make informed decisions about substance use, in an attempt to eradicate the problem before it becomes one.
7.0 Reflective Accounts
As a result of talking to the homeless participants I came to the conclusion that most of them were very uncomfortable filling out the questionnaires and only continued to do so for the free cup of tea/coffee that was provided, this could possibly make my research results subjective as they could have been giving me the answers that they thought I wanted. While this led to the statistics that was needed for the research, I over looked what the homeless community actually needed, this was for someone to get to know them and sit down casually and listen to what they had to say and what they need and want in the form of support, while applying that the homeless need accommodation they also have individual needs too.
Amore, K et a, 2011, The ETHOS Definition and Classification of Homelessness: An Analysis, [Online], Volume 5.2, article 1, :19, Available: http://eohw.horus.be/files/freshstart/European%20Journal%20of%20Homelessness/Volume%20Five/Volume%205.2/article-1.pdf , Access date 03/04/12
Communities and local Government, Homelessness and rough sleeping, 2011, [Online], Available: http://www.communities.gov.uk/housing/homelessness/ , [Accessed: 30/03/12]
Firth, L. (2008), Drugs in the UK, volume 163, Cambridge, Great Briton, independence, MWL print group Ltd. Firth, L. (2010,:3), The Homeless Population, volume 189 Cambridge, Great Briton, independence MWL print group Ltd. Johnson KD et al, 2011, Substance Abuse Disorders among Homeless and Runaway Adolescent, [Online] Available: http://ht.ly/4KWan , [Accessed: 30/03/12]
Published by the National Coalition for the Homeless, Substance Abuse and Homelessness, 2009, [Online], Available: http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/addiction.pdf , [Accessed:30/03/12]
The Health of the Homeless, 2012, [Online], Available: http://www.libraryindex.com/pages/2321/Health-Homeless-MENTAL-HEALTH-HOMELESS-PEOPLE.html , [Accessed: 30/03/12]
Washuk B, 2012, Lewiston Auburn, More programs, new teaching methods, requested for Lewiston Middle School, [Online] 1page long, Available: http://m.sunjournal.com/news/city/2012/03/13/more-programs-new-teaching-methods-requested-lewis/1167599 , Access date 03/04/12
Age (please circle) 16 or under 21 -25 26-3030-4040+
Did you become homeless in Warrington?
How long have you been homeless?
What are the reasons for becoming homeless? (was the reason for becoming homeless alcohol/ drugs related?)
Since becoming homeless have you used alcohol /drugs?
How often do you use drugs/alcohol (please circle)
Do you want to be re-homed?
What services do you know about in Warrington that assist people that are homeless?
Do you know of any services in Warrington for alcohol/drug abuse?
Do you want to access services for alcohol/drug abuse?
Is there any other services/ organisation that you would like help to access for anything else?
Do you think the Government do enough in Warrington to help prevent homelessness?
What changes would you like to see for the homeless?
Any other comments?
By Claire Smith
This research proposal intends to discover whether drugs and or alcohol contribute to homelessness, is it homelessness that exacerbates the problem of drug and alcohol abuse? , Reason for intended proposal
The reason behind this proposal is the high need for early intervention regarding drug and alcohol abuse. Currently not all professional’s advise or signpost when necessary regarding this current matter. Only 18months ago in the UK professionals began training in Alcohol Identification and Advice so that early intervention could be established to prevent medium risk individuals becoming high risk or alcohol dependants. The problem of homelessness is an important issue especially if the common cause is drug / alcohol abuse. If my research can establish whether drug/alcohol abuse is the causes leading to homelessness then professionals could aim to put in place strategies to solve substance abuse, and then latter will become less of an issue. So in tackling alcohol and substance misuse Briton could be facing a population with less homeless. Research methodology
I am going to create a questionnaire which I am going to submit to the YMCA for the homeless to fill out. After doing some research about the YMCA and talking to staff members it seems the most effective way for the homeless to participate is to be their in person offering a free cup of tea coffee to willing participants. I am going to put my finding into a table and present them to NSH Warrington Health Improvement Project Public Health. The questionnaires that are being drafted will try to determine what homeless people what in the way of tools to empower them to help themselves out of their situation. The questionnaires will try to identify; what help is already assessable for the homeless or substance misusers, is it readily available, is it equally and easily accessible to everyone who need it? This research proposal is aiming to identify whether homeless people try to access services provided to help substance and alcohol abuse and if so was it successful, of if the services are well publicised and easily accessible for the homeless. The research also intends to find out if there are organisations that are not well publicised to professionals that would be
able to sign post potential people at risk.
The Homeless Population by Lisa Firth (2010, may).
Reading about and around the subject of homelessness in The Homeless Population by Lisa Firth, it becomes very clear to me that homelessness is a complex subject and does in fact have many different elements to what may cause it. Lisa Firth goes into depth about the different types of homelessness and the different possible reasons without going ‘around the houses’ so to say. I was able to learn a lot in a short space of time such as; hidden homeless and reasons for becoming homeless. Within the contents of this book are the many frequently asked questions such as; ‘surely there’s no harm in giving a few pence to the homeless’ Firth (2012). These questions have both sides of the argument with facts and figures which for me personally answered everything that I wanted to know about the homeless community.
The ETHOS Definition and Classification of Homelessness: An Analysis by Kate Amore, Michael Baker and Philippa Howden-Chapman (2011) Upon discovering this pdf about the homeless population, it seems that this pdf was made with the intention of discovering a global definition for homelessness. This pdf suggests that certain criteria for being homeless that is applied in one place that would determine an individual homeless, does not necessarily apply to everyone globally. The ETHOS definition of homeless tries to establish what constitutes homelessness. As it is there was a great amount of information in this particular pdf however it was not easy to follow and seemed to repeat itself. It was not clear or concise. Skimming this information seemed to be the best way to get to the point of the basis of the pdf. The Health of the Homeless (2012)
The Health of the Homeless is a very clear easy to follow online document which has lots of statistics on and are homelessness. This piece of short writing starts from 1960s and comes up to current date although it wasn’t necessarily about the exact topic that the report was based on it was interesting to read. It also ties in with the point that homeless people have a voice too and they should be included in the care package provided for homeless. It was very well presented and to the point.