Tag Archives: Homelessness

Homelessness: A Disguised Housing Crisis?

Homelessness: A Disguised Housing Crisis?

Walk down the streets of any major U.S. city, and you’re likely to see many people who appear to be homeless. They may be sleeping in the doorways of businesses or in public parks. From the outside, it may appear that the only problem is a lack of housing. However, the problem is much more complex.

In fact, several contributing factors can lead to homelessness. It would be nice if one solution could solve all the issues, but the truth is, homelessness requires a multi-faceted approach that includes both short- and long-term solutions. With a stronger understanding of the root causes of homelessness, we can better address the problem to help those affected, restore our communities, and improve the quality of life for all Americans.

The Causes of Homelessness Are Complex

Everyone has their own opinion on the leading cause of homelessness, but there is no one correct answer. Some people believe that a lack of affordable housing is the root cause, while others think the issue is more social. The fact is, homelessness can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • The most common reason for homelessness is a lack of affordable housing. When people cannot afford to pay their rent or mortgage, their options for shelter are dramatically limited, especially if they are unemployed. It’s no secret that the cost of housing has been on the rise for years, and this is especially true in major cities. There is a limited supply of affordable housing in these cities, and homeless people are not the only ones who compete for it. Even families with some income can find themselves struggling to afford a place to live.
  • Poverty is also a significant contributor to homelessness. People living in poverty are often unable to make ends meet, especially when faced with additional expenses such as illness or job loss. In many cases, people living in poverty find themselves in a downward spiral, unable to afford basic necessities like food and shelter.
  • Mental illness is another major cause of homelessness. Depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia are just a few conditions that can lead to homelessness. People with mental illness often have difficulty holding down a job or accessing necessary services. As a result, they may find themselves on the streets without any support system.
  • Substance abuse is another common cause of homelessness. When people are addicted to drugs and alcohol, they may find themselves unable to hold down a job or maintain stable living arrangements. They may also have trouble accessing resources and services, making getting back on their feet even more difficult.
  • Domestic abuse is another major cause of homelessness. Victims of domestic abuse often find themselves fleeing from their homes with nowhere to go, no money in the bank, and few resources. They may be fearful for their safety and the safety of their children, making it difficult to stay in one place for very long.

What Is Being Done to Address the Problem?

addressing homelessness

The causes of homelessness are complex, so there is no single solution. However, a number of programs and initiatives are working to address the problem. Some of these include:

  • Housing assistance programs. Several government and private programs provide housing assistance to low-income families and individuals. These housing programs can help people afford a place to live, even when their income is low.
  • Mental health services. Many mental health services are available to people who need them. These services can help people with mental illness access the resources they need to maintain daily life.
  • Substance abuse treatment. Several substance abuse treatment programs are available for people struggling with addiction. These programs can help people get clean, stay sober, and reclaim their lives.
  • Domestic violence shelters. There are a number of domestic violence shelters available for victims of abuse. These shelters provide a safe place to stay, as well as access to resources and services.
The combination of these programs and initiatives has helped to decrease homelessness in recent years. However, there is still more work to be done.

What Comes First: Homelessness or Substance Abuse?

Similar to the age-old question of the chicken and the egg, there is often an ongoing debate of what comes first: homelessness or substance abuse? While there are several factors that can lead to both homelessness and addiction, there is no definitive answer to this question.

Homelessness and substance abuse often go hand in hand. In fact, many people who are homeless struggle with addiction, and many people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol are homeless. However, it is possible for someone to be homeless without being addicted, and it is possible for someone to be addicted without being homeless.

How Can Homelessness Lead to Substance Abuse?

While not everyone who is homeless struggles with addiction, there are a number of factors that can lead the homeless to substance abuse.

These include:


Stress is a major factor that can lead to both homelessness and substance abuse. People who are homeless often experience high levels of stress due to the lack of resources, safety concerns, and other factors. This stress can lead them to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol in an attempt to cope.

Lack of support

People who are homeless often lack the social and emotional support they need to get through tough times. This can lead them to turn to drugs and alcohol for comfort.


People who have experienced trauma are also more likely to struggle with addiction. This is especially true for people who are homeless, as they may be more likely to experience trauma due to the lack of safety.

How Can Substance Abuse Lead to Homelessness?

Similar to the factors that can lead to homelessness, there are a number of factors that can lead to addiction. These include:

Mental illness

People with mental illness are more likely to struggle with addiction. This is especially true for people who don’t have access to mental health services. When a mental health issue goes untreated and unsupported, it can lead an individual to reach for drugs or alcohol as a way to cope. As time goes on, the use of substances can spiral out of control and result in addiction. And when someone is struggling with addiction, it can become difficult to maintain stable employment and housing, which ultimately leads to homelessness.

Financial Instability

Financial instability is another common factor that leads to addiction. When people are struggling to make ends meet, they may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to escape their problems. As addiction takes hold, it can become increasingly difficult to keep up with bills and other financial obligations, which can lead to homelessness.

Family History

This is a big one. While not everyone who grows up in an unstable, dysfunctional family will struggle with addiction, it is a major risk factor. If there is a history of addiction in your family, you are more likely to struggle with addiction yourself. This is due to the fact that you may be more likely to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms and be predisposed to addictive behaviors.

Difficult Life Events

People who experience a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one or losing their job, are more likely to struggle with addiction. This is because these events can be incredibly overwhelming and lead to feelings of sadness, loneliness, and despair. When people don’t have healthy coping mechanisms to deal with these feelings, they may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope and eventually transition from addiction to homelessness.

There are a number of factors that can lead to both homelessness and addiction, and these problems often feed into each other. It is important to be aware of these risk factors and seek help if you or someone you know is struggling with either homelessness or addiction.

Strategies to Address Homelessness and Substance Abuse

Several strategies can be used to address homelessness and substance abuse. Some of these include:

Providing Access to Mental Health Services

One of the biggest factors that can lead to both homelessness and addiction is a lack of access to mental health services. By providing access to these resources, we can help prevent homelessness and addiction before they start.

Providing Support

People who are struggling with homelessness or addiction often lack the support system they need to get through these trying times. By providing access to resources, such as 12-step programs, we can help people who are struggling to cope and provide them with the support they need.

Incorporating Holistic Treatment

Holistic treatment approaches, such as yoga and meditation, can be incredibly helpful for people who are struggling with addiction and homelessness. These approaches help to address the whole person, not just the addiction. These are just a few of the strategies that can be used to address homelessness and substance abuse. If you or someone you know is struggling with these issues, incorporating one or more of these strategies may be a good option. Remember, it is never too late to get help.

Sober Housing for the Homeless in Recovery

Sober Housing for the Homeless in Recovery

We would love to help more individuals through our ECHO Housing Initiative – however, the need is great and the funding is low. With more donations we can help recovering individuals, who do not have the means to support themselves while in the initial stages of treatment, take the first step back towards becoming productive members of society by providing financial assistance towards safe and supportive sober living housing, personal needs and art for recovery programs while in recovery.

ECHO Recovery is a non-profit organization helping individuals in recovery. We’ve found that many individuals in early recovery do not have a safe place to live.

Please consider donating to help fund this sober housing campaign. Every dollar counts. Even if we can help one person together, it’s worth it, right?

If you or someone you know is struggling with homelessness or dependency, visit our free recovery and treatment resource page for a list of helpful free and low cost services. If you’re in Maryland we also have a list of local recovery resources for those in Harford County.



  1. Deden Rukmana (2020) The Causes of Homelessness and the Characteristics Associated With High Risk of Homelessness: A Review of Intercity and Intracity Homelessness Data, Housing Policy Debate, 30:2, 291-308, DOI: 10.1080/10511482.2019.1684334
  2. Davis, J. P., Diguiseppi, G., De Leon, J., Prindle, J., Sedano, A., Rivera, D., Henwood, B., & Rice, E. (2019). Understanding pathways between PTSD, homelessness, and substance use among adolescents. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 33(5), 467–476. https://doi.org/10.1037/adb0000488
  3. Lombardi, K., Pines, J. M., Mazer-Amirshahi, M., &Pourmand, A. (2020). Findings of a national dataset analysis on the visits of homeless patients to US emergency departments during 2005-2015. Public Health, 178, 82-89.
  4. Fowler, P. J., Hovmand, P. S., Marcal, K. E., & Das, S. (2019). Solving Homelessness from a Complex Systems Perspective: Insights for Prevention Responses. Annual review of public health, 40, 465–486. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-publhealth-040617-013553
  5. Gannotta, R., Malik, S., Chan, A. Y., Urgun, K., Hsu, F., & Vadera, S. (2018). Integrative Medicine as a Vital Component of Patient Care. Cureus, 10(8), e3098. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.3098
  6. Perri, M., Dosani, N., & Hwang, S. W. (2020). COVID-19 and people experiencing homelessness: challenges and mitigation strategies. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne, 192(26), E716–E719. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.200834
  7. Benavides, A. D., & Nukpezah, J. A. (2020). How Local Governments Are Caring for the Homeless During the COVID-19 Pandemic. The American Review of Public Administration, 50(6–7), 650–657. https://doi.org/10.1177/0275074020942062
Sober Housing Funding for Substance Use Disorders

Housing Funding Can Better Help People With Substance Use Disorders

Housing issues tie in closely to substance use disorders in many ways, and stable housing is often essential to recovery. But for many people who experience substance use disorders, permanent housing can be incredibly difficult to achieve. Homelessness and other issues related to housing can lead to relapses, making recovery more difficult. State-funded sober living homes and grants for transitional housing, among other types of aid, help many individuals in recovery, but more funding is still needed.

How Housing Helps With Recovery

For many individuals with addiction, substance abuse habits are tied to “people, places, and things,” which means that familiar friends, locations, habits, and more can trigger substance use, which is why recovery housing is so important. Staying in the same home or returning to the same house after inpatient treatment can increase the chances of relapsing.

Recovery housing can come in several different forms, but will generally have some support staff on-site or nearby, as well as the support of peers going through the recovery experience together. These types of housing provide extra time and support for those in recovery in a safe, supportive, and drug-free environment.

Homelessness and Substance Use

Substance use disorders and the behaviors associated with addiction can be very destructive, often leading to homelessness. The use of drugs and alcohol is widespread among homeless individuals, and the lack of stable housing can become a barrier to achieving sobriety. Those experiencing homelessness likely have serious limitations in being able to afford any housing or treatment for their addictions. Grants for sober living homes help make it possible for many more individuals to find stable housing while in recovery.

How Housing Helps with Recovery

Does Medicaid Pay for Sober Living?

Medicaid and Medicare are two health insurance programs funded by state and federal governments and are available to certain age groups and income brackets. Medicaid and Medicare can provide low-cost or even free health care, including drug and alcohol recovery treatments; however, the details can vary between the different programs, as well as from state to state.

While these essential insurance programs can help with the initial recovery treatments, they usually do not cover the costs of halfway houses and other transitional or sober houses. Therefore, the need is great for additional funding for sober living situations. Grants for halfway houses and other transitional housing options are critical to providing the necessary financing to those in need.

Housing Approaches to Help Those in Recovery

There are two main approaches to addressing the issue of stable housing for people in recovery, especially those who are homeless. Both approaches are extremely helpful: Sober Living Houses (SLHs) and a program called Housing First (HF).

Sober Living Houses

Sober Living Houses Defined

Sober Living Houses provide a drug and alcohol-free housing environment for individuals who are attending a recovery program. This kind of recovery housing is generally found in residential, single-family neighborhoods. Support levels can easily be customized to match the level of need for the individuals staying at the residence. For example, many sober living homes are dedicated to one gender or offered during a specific level of care. Often times a long-term addiction treatment program offers lower levels of care. As an individual graduates from in-patient, residential care they may go into an outpatient program. If they do not live in the area, often times they need to find a sober living facility where they can stay while they continue their treatment program.

Generally, in this scenario, an individual only needs to live in a SLH for a month or two while they complete the full continuum of care. A typical long-term program transitions a patient from detox to inpatient and finally outpatient care over the course of a 2-3-month period. Ideally someone recovering from a severe addiction will remain in professional care for 6 months or more. However, often times insurance carriers will not approve a patient for longer than 3-6 months and because of this, SLH often see a fairly high turnover.

Sober Living Homes are monitored by a house manager 24/7. There are normally strict house rules and individuals are free to stay as long as they follow the rules, including staying clean and sober and paying the rent.

Housing First Defined

Housing First Defined

In the Housing First approach, stable housing is placed as priority number one for individuals and their families who may be struggling with homelessness in addition to addiction. Often in this type of accommodation, there are no barriers or conditions to attain the housing. Many other types of recovery homes have conditions for complete sobriety to remain in the home, but the Housing First model ensures that permanent housing is available without restrictions. The thinking behind this approach is that those who have more stable housing and voluntarily accept treatments and services are more in control of their progress with addiction recovery and mental health.

Housing First really evolved during the 90’s when large numbers of people remained homeless despite being part of a recovery program. Low income individuals might find coverage for a state program, but still not have access to safe, sober living housing. Housing First doesn’t require the individual be part of an addiction recovery program, however, only that the individual is seeking help for a supportive living situation. Advocates argued that individuals suffering from a mental health or co-occurring disorders are more vulnerable without a stable living situation.

Different than Sober Living Houses, Housing First focuses on harm reduction rather than promoting a strictly abstinence-based recovery. The HF immediate focus is on helping the individual find a safe, stable environment to live in. Some of these arrangements go beyond a residence with 24/7 monitoring. HF provides individuals apartments within the general housing market and other times housing within a centralized setting where multiple homeless individuals are housed together. Programs vary and so do the supporting services. In programs without on-site staff, case managers will visit residents on a regular basis to monitor problems and provide referrals to off-site services as needed.

Sober Living Housing Versus Housing First

Each of these models addresses the problem in different ways, and both should be supported. Recovery from addiction is not a one-size-fits-all path, and each of these approaches can be successful for different individuals in recovery. Recovery housing is needed for those who need sober living with more structure and support, while in an addiction recovery program and sometimes also while they are transitioning back into “regular” life and not returning back home after their care program is over.

The Housing First model is intended to support individuals who have a mental health disorder or a dual diagnosis, that also need somewhere to live. Candidates for Housing First might have a co-occurring disorder, but do not necessarily have to be in treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction in order to get help from the Housing First program. HF is best for those who can be more independent but need a supportive housing environment due to their mental health issues.

It’s easy to see that both types of programs are essential and should be supported. For either approach, substance abuse prevention grants can be used to help fund these programs, and this outside funding is critical to keep these programs going.

The Echo Foundation Recovery Housing Initiative

At ECHO Recovery, we understand that not everyone can afford to find safe, stable housing while undergoing an outpatient addiction recovery treatment program. Housing for these types of situations is often not covered through the treatment plan or insurance programs. Usually, outside funding is used to fill in these gaps and ensure that even those who cannot afford it themselves can have access to safe housing while in treatment.

The ECHO Recovery Foundation provides housing scholarships to those in recovery and in financial need. These scholarships provide critical support to some of our most vulnerable individuals, but we need your help to keep these programs going. You can support our mission to provide housing and recovery treatment to these individuals with a donation in any amount.

The ECHO Foundation Recovery Housing Initiative

Contact us to learn more about how you can get involved or donate to the recovery movement today to help our important housing initiative. We appreciate your support.