Something I read this week got me thinking about the relationship between addiction and homelessness. According to Crisis, about 66% of people they deal with say their addiction was actually the cause of their homelessness. This is true for my son Ryan. He was at home until his late twenties, by which time his addiction to ‘party’ drugs was causing me so much distress, I gave him three months to find somewhere else to live. He left and I started paying his rent, but I sensed at that point he became mentally and emotionally homeless. Instead of finding somewhere decent, he dossed down in a succession of drug dens and things spiralled out of control. Crime, violence and chaos reigned. His mental health, which had not been good for many years, deteriorated to such a degree that he was a danger to himself and others. I remember meeting him in town one day and his face looked as if he’d been in a car crash. In fact, in a drug induced cry for help, he had head-butted a lamppost. Paramedics were called, he refused to go to hospital then wandered round in a daze for the rest of the night. It broke my heart when he told me what had happened.
Ryan became properly homeless in June 2017. After coming out of prison four months previously, I had set him up in a safe, clean rented room. I said that I’d pay the rent until June when he had to become self-sufficient. Things started looking up when he got two part-time jobs and was able to pay half his own rent. It didn’t last long though as drug taking was more important than being able to get up for work every day. He lost one job, then the other, then June arrived. I kept to my word and stopped paying rent. Overnight he was physically homeless and that’s still the situation today.
I know that all addicts aren’t homeless, just as all rough sleepers aren’t addicts. But, without a shadow of a doubt, addiction led to my son’s homelessness. Food, water and shelter are life’s three basic necessities and I can’t begin to imagine how it must feel not to have a home. Sadly, that’s the price that Ryan has paid for his drug fuelled lifestyle. What about your addict? What is the worst thing that addiction has done to them?