Addiction: Barrier to Housing?

The video here (http://wreg.com/2013/11/12/homeless-couple-given-home-strips-it-to-buy-crack/) has been used as means of discrediting the housing first model of ending homelessness. According to the video and article which follows, Patricia Brown/Douglas and her boyfriend, Willie Banner, were given a house via the 100 Homes Memphis program only to strip it as means of buying crack cocaine. Cases like these work to support the idea that drug addiction works as a barrier to housing homeless individuals. In order to understand how drug addiction may influence a person’s actions, we must first understand exactly what addiction is. According to the article found here (http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/how-addiction-hijacks-the-brain) by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, addiction has less to do with pleasure than the collective scientific community once believed. Initial use of addictive drugs may produce a sense of euphoria as a result of the drug’s tendency to cause the brain to release 2 to 10 times the amount of dopamine natural reward-related behaviors do. It is easy to see how the brain’s experience of up to 10 times a naturally occurring release of dopamine may drive an individual to continue to seek out the experience several times over. But the experience does not stay the same. An addicted person’s brain produced less dopamine and eliminates dopamine receptors as a result of the recent abundance of dopamine. As a result, the addicted individual has to take more of the drug to achieve the desired effect. As dopamine works as means of survival by reinforcing productive behaviors, it is easy to see how one might chose an addictive substance over, say the window unit in his or her new house.

Neither the video or the article that follows make any mention of supportive services. It would appear these two individuals were given a house and told they were on their own. This could explain why Kelsey Johnson of Hospitality Hub reports seeing individuals like and including Patricia Brown/Douglas in shelter even after they have been housed. The presence of these individuals in homeless support programs even after being placed in housing would seem to illustrate a wanting for something more. As Brown/Douglas reports in the short video clip following the article, she felt lonely and sought out homeless social settings as means of connecting with others. There would seem to be a strong correlation between drug use and homelessness. Some say drug addiction is a cause of homelessness while others argue it is just as often an effect. Either way, how should one be expected to end his or her drug addiction when he or she continues to rely on the social structure he or she built as a homeless individual?

One man in the video suggests that treatment should be a prerequisite for housing. But drug use works as means of escape for many users. It only follows that rehabilitation may be helped and not hindered by removing pain from the addicted individual’s life. But removal of said pain is often not complete means to sobriety. Remember, use of addictive drugs tends to lessen the amount of dopamine an individual’s brain releases. Access to supportive services are and have been the means to keeping individuals struggling with addiction stably housed. According to the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, clients of Permanent Supportive Housing programs “noted that supportive services have enabled them to stay sober, regain custody of children, and rebuild relationships with families” (http://www.oasas.ny.gov/housing/documents/finalfocusgroupreport.pdf).

The answer is clear. Housing first works. Individuals like the ones featured in the video discussed here fail to maintain their housing as a result of a lack of supportive services. The answer is not housing. The answer is housing first.

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