Tedrico's Page Select Discussion Topic of the Week (5/23 -

Theodore Latham (tedrico@hotmail.com)
Sat, 30 May 1998 04:39:49 PDT


     Each week Tedrico's Page scavenges the WWW in search of a 
controversial homeless discussion topic, and presents it to you, in 
hopes of gathering varied and invaluable feedback for analysis:

On Sat, 23 May 1998 21:58:06 EDT Jeevan <JEEVSTER@aol.com> 

Subject: Is drug addiction usually a cause or consequence?

    What would you say were the most common causes of someone 
becoming homeless?  Is drug addiction usually a cause or a consequence?  
As a future physician, or if I were to start up an organization catering 
to health needs of the homeless, would you 
have any advice as to what concerns need to be met first?



On Tue, 26 May 1998 20:49:15 [EST] Tedrico Latham <tedrico@hotmail.com> 

Jevan, speaking from personal experience ... I'd have to say both cause 
and consequence! My life was going absolutely well until I 
took that big BOOYOW (as they say in the streets)! Since the day I 
did that, I slowly but surely lost my status as a promising, young, 
future college graduate, my car, the love of my life, my sanity, my 
rational thinking, my ability to walk amongst the "outside of 
prison" population (for a brief period), my desire for intimate 
relationships, my familie's trust, a roof over my head to call my 
own, numerous well paying jobs, and I even almost lost my life on 
several occasions. Drug addiction caused all of this over a short 
time period of 4 years. As a consequence, I experienced the full 
thrusted end of homelessness, unlike non-drug users who seldom blow all 
of the opportunities to rise above homelessness like we hard 
core users do every day ... all day! 

On Tue, 26 May 1998 21:09:50 +0000 Jennafer Waggoner <refugee@gte.net> 

Cause or consequence? I'd say both. The first concern you should 
have is asking the homeless in your area what they need. I am an 
outreach worker for the Santa Monica AIDS Project and the things 
that I see are mostly undiagnosable.

Most people's teeth are completely rotted out or missing. Skin disorders 
are very common. Rashes, poisonous insects, skin 
exposures and cancers are common and untreated here by the public health 
system. I see people's faces colors of red you will never 
want to see. Peeling faces showing red and garish pink oozing 
wounds that are too painful to treat for most. Open wounds are 
common, especially amongst alcholics.

I'd say the most common malady of the homeless is food disorders. 
Foot infections are the number one disease of the homeless. The 
number one crippler of the homeless. Swollen feet, athlete's foot isn't 
the word for the maddening infection that occurs when you have no clean 
socks or shoes. I know many people who resort to alcohol 
and drugs because their pain isn't taken care of and counseling for the 
homeless for psychological trauma is non-existent no matter how much 
they say that it is, it isn't.

On Tue, 26 May 1998 20:49:39 -0700 (PDT) "P. Myers" 
<mpwr@u.washington.edu> replied:

I think the primary cause of homelessness is the lack of social interest 
in ending homelessness, by setting up automatic, non-judgemental, 
peer-driven and individualised (non-porous) safety nets, so that, when 
folks begin to slide into poverty, they do not have to ask for help of a 
society that shames them; parade their 
pain, grief, crisis, misstep, whatever, to prove that they are 
sufficiently poor enough to deserve help, and deserving enough to 
make what someone else might define as "good" use of "help." I think 
people find themselves homeless for as many reasons as there are 
those of us who are/have been / will be homeless. Many single 
parents are one paycheck away from homelessness. I haven't managed 
to pay full rent in so long I don't know why I'm not on the streets 
right now...a *very patient landlady, and **very marginal home also, 
I suspect.

Illness, job loss, spousal abuse or desertion; family or personal 
illness and resultant bills; death and concomitant loss of some 
family member's income; rental increase; housing discrimination by 
gender, age, race (especially!), a social system that is regularly 
fed sound bits that demonize homeless as dangerous, mentally ill and 
dangerous, dirty, drunk and incontinent (whilst still providing nothing 
like adequate shelter or private facilities for a population on the 
streets); and a government that believes it must operate on 
a mentality of scarcity (you know, there really *is enough to go 
around...), which strengthens the notion of "I have to get mine 
before s/he gets his/hers and there's none left for me ... and hey 

But I guess in the final analysis, Tedrico, it's me.  What do I do 
or not do, every day, when am I silent when I ought to speak up and why; 
when do I not speak with sufficient eloquence/clarity to help people 
understand that homelessness/poverty/all the little marginalisations we 
use to divide ourselves is part of the way the 
man and woman in the mirror have been raised...the assumptions we 
make (e.g. if I can make it, anyone can) that we may not know are 
assumptions.  The choices I/we make that keep a democracy in the hip 
pocket of capitalism, without complaint ... So I accept my part in 
the equation.

On Wed, 27 May 1998 01:07:13 EDT FChrisBro <FChrisBro@aol.com> 

To answer the first question, there are so many causes of 
homelessness that it is difficult to identify the "most common." Ask 50 
homeless people and you're liable to hear 50 different stories. 
In light of the large numbers of homeless children, perhaps it could be 
said that one common cause of homelessness is having homeless parents.

Drugs--are they a cause or consequence of homelessness? The answer 
is yes. Some people do lose everything, including their homes, after 
becoming addicted. Others turn to drugs, especially alcohol, as a means 
of coping with the mental and physical discomforts associated with 
living on the street--that was my personal experience when I 
was homeless, and I did not stop abusing intoxicants until after I 
was off the street.

As far as the *immediate* health needs of the homeless are 
concerned, they are fairly basic and are mostly associated with the 
conditions in which they live. They include malnutrition and the 
illnesses it causes, mental and emotional disorders, and, for children, 
the lack of adequate vaccinations. Drug and alcohol addiction, AIDS and 
HIV infection, and the effects of violence are also important concerns. 
I guess one could say that the immediate health needs of the homeless 
are food, clothing, and shelter. 

On Wed, 27 May 1998 01:27:20 -0400 Graeme Bacque <gbacque@arcos.org> 

As a causal factor in homelessness, I would have to answer yes 
*and* no to the above, with strict qualifications on the 'yes'... 
if alcohol or drug use causes behavioral issues or compromises someone's 
economic situation, then it would be a factor. But then again this has 
to be viewed in the context that real economic 
freedom belongs only to a very few to begin with, and as well this 
society isn't kind to the human soul and seeking relief from pain seems 
an entirely natural response to an often unlivable situation.

If you own a home and have good income these issues are usually shielded 
from outside scrutiny but if you're homeless or 
inadequately housed - or simply poor - these things are much more in the 
public eye and are often met with harsh judgement. The one thing which I 
can state with certainty (from painful firsthand experience) is that 
substance use/abuse, or for that matter any debilitating condition of 
body, mind or spirit can only be aggravated by homelessness. When it 
comes to actual causes of  homelessness, the most common by far in my 
opinion is economic inequity complicated by an inadequate supply of 
affordable housing.

On Wed, 27 May 1998 17:19:54 -0400 "Tim Macaulay" <macaulay@ellijay.com> 

I would say that drug addiction is more a consequence than cause 
for homelessness but it can be a cause. The most common I would say 
is lack of income, family support leading to or derived from depression 
and lack of self confidence. I know many dope heads .. 
very few are homeless. Most end up in jail which isn't fun but then 
isn't really homeless either.

I am a Medical Technologist and work in a clinical setting. There's 
a huge misconseption about the homeless and drugs. Truth is, it's 
probably harder for homeless to get drugs. Who'd front them a 
quarter bag, or an eightball if they had no income. Who'd buy from one? 
Needless to say I have experimented most of my adult life .. 
I'm not bragging just being honest. I was a brickmason 'til I was 
26. I started college at that age in 1992. I smoked pot the whole 
time both in college before and after. I quit doing crank on a 
regular basis in 1987. I quit smoking pot in August of last year, 
granted I miss the high but I have more free money. But never have 
I been homeless or known one that was homeless because of drugs. 
I've known people addicted to crank get so low they had no home but they 
never slept outside either most at that point straighten up or overdose 
and die.

On Wed, 27 May 1998 15:32:36 -0700 Andrew Rose <arose@macromedia.com> 

Kids need love and education and food so they grow up confident, 
curious, and creative. The problems of people on the streets go way 

On Wed, 27 May 1998 21:37:23 EDT Rebecca <REB821@aol.com> 

Drug addiction is definitely a cause. I have seen people go from 
being very well off, to losing almost everything due to a drug 
addiction. I am a firm believer in the fact that the wages of sin 
is death. I interpret this to mean that their is a consequence to every 
sin that we commit. If we abuse our bodies or the money which God 
entrusts us with, the consequences can only be bad.  Deal with 
the drug addicts first. Drug addicts don't want to work or lead a normal 
life, therefore we cannot expect them to help themselves get off the 
streets if their brain is all fried. I'm sorry but I have 
no sympathy towards people with drug addictions.

On Thu, 28 May 1998 04:07:02 -0400 David Ibbotson 
<ibbotson@iosphere.net> answered:

Both and Neither! "FIRE WATER BURNS, and HURTS physically." To help the 
"homeless" -> give, blood, bone marrow & $, if you were to ever have 
any, again!

On Thu, 28 May 1998 11:34:09 +0000 Piotr kuzniar 
<vanguard@tau.ceti.com.pl> said:

In Poland most of drug addicted homeless are scoff by the "normal" 
homeless. The same is with Polish organisation helping homeless 
(not so much). Drug addicted homeless have their own called MONAR. 
The only group helping those people. 1st thing to do - in my opinion 
- is help the homeless with heath - in Poland most of homeless need 
'heavy' help of medicine doctors - medicines assurance, etc. Health 
is the most important thing to solve. Without social help they're 
left alone and only in Homeless Centres they might find appropriate 
medicine help. They cannot find it government hospital so Homeless 
Centres are the only hope for them. I don't know how it looks in USA or 
West Europe, but it'd be main thing to do in Poland.

On Thu, 28 May 1998 14:23:40 -0700 (PDT) Bonnie Briggs 
<s248_1132@hotmail.com> responded:

I'd say it is most often a consequence. Homeless people drink to escape 
from the street and it's attendent pressures and terrors. My husband and 
I were homeless at this time of year in 1987. That was because our 
landlord sold the house out from under us. We didn't 
find out about it until the deal was done. 

As to what health concerns need to be dealt with first, I would say 
basic, preventative health care. Homeless people need housing and 
good food to remain healthy. We all know that TB is rampant on the 
streets and in the shelters. When you're on the streets, you are exposed 
to all manner of germs, illnesses, and diseases. Homeless people catch 
these diseases more readily because their immune 
systems are run down.

Also, homeless people don't get the proper diet for good health. 
They may eat once a day, every other day, or not for several days. This 
does not promote good health. Homeless people eat a lot of starch, (i.e. 
Kraft Dinner). They also live off food from the food bank. A lot of this 
food is second-hand food, some of it's going 
bad, and it is heavy on starch and processed food. No one can remain 
heathy on this kind of steady diet. People need fresh vegetables 
and fruit, meat occasionally, (sorry vegans), and an array of foods 
on a steady basis to stay healthy. I believe this is where you need 
to focus your organization. I hope this helps.

On Thu, 28 May 1998 19:51:36 -0400 Paula <plebrun@cyberportal.net> 

Up in our area the substance abuse caused the homelessness because 
of missed work, being kicked out of home/relationships/family for 
repeated use/abuse. It's real difficult to help the user until they want 
to help themselves and work on their addiction. Most every one 
of our substance abusers who's found employment &/or housing, and didn't 
stick to AA or other support services, lost it all again and again -- 
our repeaters at the shelter. What's real sad are the 
parents who continue to use, collect welfare or work, the kids are 
continually in a state of upheavel and have to pay for the problems 
their parents are having. I've reported numerous families to the 
Child Protective for abandonment and other various abuses and 
neglect of children and received little or no reponse from them.  
We try the police and local agencies as well. Usually the problem is 
ignored since we're a 24 hr. staffed shelter...they think we're 
supervising the children. A bunch of us are getting semi organized 
to address this in our community.

To answer the pre-doctor, I'd say one of the greatest needs is $$ 
for meds, such as insulin-necessary medications. Substance abuse is 
rough if you're dual diagnosed. Not many places will take them due 
to that, as well as the fact that they're indigent. Also, dental and eye 
care is difficult to get. We try to approach the substance 
problem within the shelter when every door gets shut, but we've 
never seen 100% success long term. These folks are so dedicated to their 
addiction they'll go without to buy their "escape", take from others, or 
con it out of someone. I've also never seen a person who was homeless 
turn to alcohol or drugs because of their situation.

Addicts are the most frustrating type of client to help and deal 
with. I've dragged them from the bars when they were suppose to be 
at work, scared the daylights out of them, some went to detox and 
rehab...but they were back at it eventually. Unless the person is 
dedicated to ending the addiction themselves no matter what services and 
supports are there, it just isn't going to happen. My suggestion to the 
doctor...don't enable them, don't feel sorry for them. It's 
as if they're on a suicide mission, and even if they were handed 
life on a silver platter, they still wouldn't give it up. <-I've 
tried it and it doesn't work.  Addicts also seem to form their own 
"group" and watch out for one another so they won't get caught, 
kicked out of the shelter, share their 12-pack or whatever. For 
those of us loosing sleep and putting our lives on the line trying 
to help and often save these people's lives, IT STINKS!!! I've received 
my share of black 'n blues from them, cried a few oceans 
from frustration and exhaustion - then I head out again to try, 
try, try... This is getting depressing!


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