Mental Health amongst the Homeless

For May Mental Health Awareness Month, Recovery Group Supervisor, Karen Smith shares how PiN works with the homeless community in coping with mental health.

Substance abuse is often a cause of homelessness. Addictive disorders disrupt relationships with family and friends and often cause people to lose their jobs. For people who are already struggling to pay their bills, the onset or exacerbation of an addiction may cause them to lose their housing. In many situations, however, substance abuse is a result of homelessness rather than a cause. It has been documented that over 50% of people who are homeless often turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their situations. They use substances in an attempt to attain temporary relief from their problems. In reality, however, substance dependence only exacerbates their problems and decreases their ability to achieve employment stability and get off the streets. Additionally, some people may view drug and alcohol use as necessary to be accepted among the homeless community.  

For many homeless people, substance abuse co-occurs with mental illness. Often, people with untreated mental illnesses use street drugs as an inappropriate form of self-medication. Homeless people with both substance disorders and mental illness experience additional obstacles to recovery, such as increased risk for violence and victimization. Sadly, these people are often unable to find treatment facilities that will help them. Many programs for homeless people with mental illnesses do not accept people with substance abuse disorders, and many programs for homeless substance abusers do not treat people with mental illnesses.  

PIN Ministry has established a multilayered resolution to those who wish to link into services. We have two open recovery groups and two focus groups as gender specific adversities can be separately complex. We offer Celebrate Recovery as the foundation of our recovery groups. It is a 12 step program that is Christ based allowing participants to learn about making changes in behaviors, compulsions and addictions in a supportive atmosphere.  It also allows attendants to meet God exactly where they are regardless of their circumstances. Celebrate Recovery doesn’t just address addiction.  It also addresses other issues that can cause challenges in life.  

For those that have a heightened behavioral health obstacle, People in Need can refer a participant directly to the mental and behavioral health clinic that operates in collaboration with Old Dominion University.  The participant need not be afraid of a new and unfamiliar environment with the Providers of care located within the safety of PiN offices.