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Drugs & Alcohol in homelessness


In 2018, there were approximately 554,000 homeless people in Kenya.Nairobi homeless population is increasing yearly, particularly in younger age ranges. Tragically, homelessness and addiction go hand in hand. The end result of homelessness is often substance abuse, and substance abuse often contributes to homelessness. The National Coalition for the Homeless has found that 38% of homeless people are alcohol dependent, and 26% are dependent on other harmful chemicals

Often times, addiction is a result of homelessness. The difficult conditions of living on the street, having to find food, struggling with ill-health, and being constantly away from loved ones creates a highly stressful state of being. Individuals suffering from homelessness may additionally develop psychiatric conditions in response to the harsh lifestyle of feeling threatened by violence, starvation, and lack of shelter and love.Homelessness, Mental Disorders, and AddictionReports suggest 33% of homeless people battle mental illness. Sources cite mental illness as another major cause of homelessness, which often leads to drug and alcohol abuse. Common mental disorders the homeless struggle with include:Bipolar disorderParanoia/DelusionsSchizophrenia/Schizoaffective disorderPost-Traumatic Stress Disorder (particularly high in homeless veterans)Major depressive disorderSevere anxietyIn addition to suffering mental illness, homeless individuals suffering mental conditions are more likely to be victims of assault, further needing the comfort they temporarily find in harmful substances. Homeless individuals suffering difficult mental and emotional conditions may find it convenient to self-medicate with harmful substances as well. The combination of mental disorders and substance abuse is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. While it may seem that difficult mental conditions can be suppressed by drugs and alcohol use, this actually creates a destructive cycle of dependency. Women, Homelessness, and Addiction Homeless women suffer unique gender-based trauma, contributing to the higher amounts of drug use with homeless women than men. While 30% of homeless people overall suffer mental illness, the rate is significantly higher in female populations. 50% to 60% of homeless women suffer mental and emotional disturbances, often pre-dating their homelessness.Many homeless women become homeless in response to escaping pasts laden with domestic violence or sexual trauma; some are victims who fled the hard grip of sex trafficking. These factors, along with co-occurring disorders from homelessness, have contributed to the fact that a approximately one-third of homeless women have abused heroin and crack cocaine. Young Adults, Homelessness, and AddictionMany homeless youths and young adults are victims of substance abuse. Youths aged 12 to 17 are at greater risk of homelessness than adults, and many homeless youths have been the victims of severe abuse. 71% of missing, runaway, throwaway, or abducted children reported a substance abuse disorder.Factors contributing to such youth homelessness substance abuse:Growing up in a homeless familyGenetics of substance abuseFamily abuseMaladaptive coping mechanics to stressCo-occurring disordersEarly use of substance abuse (using at a very young age)Physical, sexual, and emotional abuseRunning away from homeHomeless youths with substance abuse issues are much more vulnerable long-term substance abuse and untreated co-occurring disorders which follow them into adulthood.

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Helpingsteps is a community-based program that is situated in Kenya and is within the initial starting stages and for now, only offers a mobile community Kitchen. The Community Kitchen is not large nor is it capable of providing for all the children as it is limited due to financial constraints. It is critical to note that as for now the Helping Steps program is self-financed and is unable to critically address the needs of the children. While the kitchen community does offer food and water, it is imperative to cater to the overall development of the children. The program aims at offering a safe and hospitable environment for the children in order to cater to their needs and sustainability as they grow into adults.

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