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Breaking the vicious cycle of drugs and homelessness - New Homeless Link report points the way -
Whether people become homeless as a result of drug use or begin taking drugs to self medicate against the grim reality of becoming homeless, drugs and homelessness are inextricably linked.
“Where I live I need to be out of my nut. I wouldn’t be able to sleep, can’t wash, can’t brush my teeth, there’s no water.” (1)
Three years ago the Audit Commission pointed to an overemphasis on treating drug addiction, coupled with a lack of emphasis on providing the support needed to bring order to the often chaotic lives of drug users. It concluded that housing, social care and other services must provide users with support to maintain progress made during treatment and ultimately help them become employed, housed and more self sufficient.
“Do not send us on an expensive treatment programme only to house us in a hostel where people are using all around us. You are setting us up to fail.” (1)
Homeless Link has recently completed research into the facilities available to homeless drug users attempting to reduce their use or kick their habit in three London boroughs. The findings of this research are detailed in Clean Break, a new report which reveals that, whilst some excellent facilities were identified, overall provision is lacking. All too often people trying to get or stay clean are placed in hostels where there are people still actively using drugs, increasing the likelihood of relapse.
“The trouble with living here is that everybody is at different stages so there is conflict when people are using and you’re trying to stop.” (1)
The report identifies a number of agencies that provide specialised accommodation designated for people who want to make a clean break from drug use, where the success rate is much higher.
“People in my circumstances need to be with other people in recovery, to share hopes, not needles.” (1)
The support provided by these facilities to build life skills and self confidence is achieving the results recommended by the Audit Commission in 2004.
“It’s my own place. I’ve never had my own place. It’s good to see your name on the tenancy form. I’m somebody now.” (1)
The report, written for Homeless Link by Tribal Consulting, makes strong recommendations to the National Treatment Agency, the Home Office, Communities and Local Government, and local authorities on both the importance and value of integrating drugs, housing and homelessness policies.
Homeless Link chief executive Jenny Edwards said: “Our research demonstrates the urgent need to link up drug and housing services much more effectively to help people escape homelessness and addiction. It show that with the right environment and support, lives can be turned around. The results can be inspiring when we stop wasting public money on doomed treatment.”
Clean Break: Development of integrated housing and care pathways for drug users will be released on May 24th at the Homeless Link/Shelter conference, ‘Housing and drugs: a matter of substance’ (2). Guest speakers at the conference include Martin Barnes, chief executive of DrugScope, Lisa Barker, CLG, and Paul Hayes, chief executive of the National Treatment Agency.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
(1) All quotes are from service users interviewed for Clean Break: Development of integrated housing and care pathways for drug users.
(2) Information about Housing and drugs: a matter of substance is available on the Homeless Link website at www.homeless.org.uk/developyourservice/events/calendar/housinganddrugs.