The use of the term “houseless” or “houselessness” has gained in popularity as of late due to a shift in perception of that socioeconomic phenomenon. Houseless means that a person does not have a traditional living space, such as an apartment or an actual house. Nonetheless, they may still have a home. As the common phrase goes, “Home is where the heart is.” Some find a home in their connections with other people, memories, nature, or community spaces like parks, farms, gyms, and markets.
In short, a home can be much more than just a dwelling. Hence, calling someone homeless can make an offensive assumption about their lived experiences. It can make any space they do live in seem illegitimate, making it seem more justifiable to remove them from a public location. This is currently a pervasive issue in California.
On the Other Hand…
In some cases, some unsheltered persons prefer being called houseless because the alternative can be pitying. Using this term can be a form of respect and acknowledgment that maybe the individual does have a home. On the other hand, a reverse argument can also be made. Some see this term as making light of the struggles and injustices they face. It can also be seen as ignoring the fact that the person might not want to remain in this condition. Some individuals who are houseless may very well be without a home.
Many people who end up on the street do not choose to endure a lack of access to healthy and sufficient meals, medical care, shelter, or other quality-of-life factors. There are typically challenging life events that led them to this circumstance, such as addiction or mental health issues. In Joyce Kawakami’s Maui News article titled “Homeless and houseless can mean different things”, she made the argument that we need to redefine the relationship between those terms. Kawakami proposes that homelessness could describe a situation in which an individual is houseless but doesn’t want to be, meaning it is out of their control. Houseless could refer to individuals that choose a nomadic lifestyle.
Connection to Addiction & Mental Health
Whatever term you decide is the most appropriate, it is important to recognize that some people need and desire help. Statistics from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness reveal that the total population of people experiencing homelessness in California is +160,00. California also has a high number of veterans and unaccompanied young adults (aged 18-24) who are homeless (+11,000 and + 12,000, respectively).
Understanding the dynamics of homelessness is a complex task, as there are many interrelated variables that may explain a person’s situation. According to a publication by the National Coalition for the Homeless titled “Why Are People Homeless?”, some reasons include:
- Eroding employment opportunities
- Decline of public assistance
- Lack of affordable housing and healthcare
- Domestic violence
- Mental illness
- Substance use disorders
It Can Be Hard to Get Off the Streets
Many individuals who are unsheltered suffer from chronic substance abuse or severe mental illness. From data collected in 2019 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, about 20.5% of individuals who are chronically homeless are severely mentally ill and 15.7% have chronic substance abuse issues. These conditions frequently co-occur. Common mental conditions among this demographic include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder.
The relationship between addiction and mental illness and homelessness is bidirectional. Sometimes addiction and mental illness can result in homelessness, and other times a person develops these issues while living on the street. At that point, it can be really challenging to find housing because drug testing and other requirements are unlikely to be satisfied. Barriers like a lack of health insurance and transportation can hinder getting proper treatment.
Getting Help Before Things Get Worse
Do you have a friend, family member, or partner that is abusing drugs or alcohol? Have you noticed any of the warning signs of a mental health condition? Getting help for them as soon as possible can save them from getting stuck in a cycle of addiction and mental instability. It might even help them avoid becoming homeless, which is critical because it can be really hard to get off the streets once you’re there.
Maybe you are unsure of how serious their situation is and are hesitant to make a fuss. Be reassured, though, that bringing the potential issue to light in a loving and caring way is much better than keeping quiet and watching their mental and physical health deteriorate. Helping them get treatment in a residential treatment program can save their life. That’s something you should never feel guilty for.
Homelessness is a serious and complex problem in California that is attributed to various causes. Mental illness and chronic substance abuse are two related conditions that can result in or are the result of homelessness. Oceanfront Recovery is a residential treatment facility located in Laguna Beach, California. Our accredited programs focus on stabilizing you throughout detox and teaching you supportive therapies that can help you function without substances. Because our clinicians understand that men and women experience addiction and mental illness differently, we have separate facilities for treatments. We also seek to unpack and work through any underlying issues that may be motivating drug or alcohol use. With us, you will have access to a variety of treatment options in a safe, caring, and peaceful environment. If you know someone who needs help, please don’t hesitate to call us. You can speak to one of our clinicians about our programs and the enrollment process. Call (877) 279-1777 today.