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This isn’t popular, but I’d challenge anyone who thinks homelessness in Seattle isn’t primarily an addiction and mental illness problem to go spend a few afternoons in areas with significant homeless populations (3rd Ave in Pioneer Square is a great place, if you need a suggestion).

It’s not that affordable housing isn’t a problem in Seattle. I know people who couldn’t live on their own in Seattle anymore due to rental increases, including members of my extended family. But those people either move away to more affordable areas, moving in with family or friends or into (sometimes questionably legal) group housing situations, but they don’t live on the street.

You're not seeing all the other homeless people though who were displaced by high housing prices and who aren't spending all their time drugged out in highly visible urban areas. There are many homeless people living out of cars or shelters, or in tents. Many of them even still have jobs, they just can't afford housing.

See: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-ucla-anderson-forecast...

I'm not in Seattle (I live and work on some of the most conspicuous blocks in San Francisco for homeless drug users), but I'm sure that both groups exist in both cities. I think what's important is for policy proposals to treat the groups differently, rather than bundling them together into a proposal to "solve homelessness." In my experience in SF these proposals usually only focuses on one set of issues, like minimum wage and rent prices, which are unlikely to significantly help both groups of homeless people.

> to treat the groups differently, rather than bundling them together into a proposal to "solve homelessness."

I agree. Add the absence of a healthcare system to that too. Personal anecdote: a homeless man offered to wash my car for money. He seemed intelligent and nice, so I agreed. He told me the story of him becoming homeless. Both he and his wife worked and rented an OK place in OK part of SF. His wife got into a car accident and their crappy insurance couldn't handle it, the deductibles were astronomical because, as usual, some of the "independent businessmen" who "provided care" were out of network, as if the unconscious victim had any control over who touched her.

So they had to drop their income below certain level to qualify for free healthcare. Now he didn't have enough for rent and moved to under a highway bridge and was visibly embarrassed by it.

That's a bit of a shocker really.

I agree that both are problems worth solving, but one is pretty obviously a more urgent public health problem, and unfortunately, the more difficult one to solve.

When people are talking about Seattle's worsening homeless problem, they're talking about the presence of needles and fecal material on the sidewalks, and being harassed, and sometimes even attacked, by clearly mentally ill people, not about people living in trailers in non-urban areas.

Maybe people also get mentally ill from being homeless. Then one gets physically ill from living in a physically hostile environment...

I don't think the original cause matters so much. It's the cause that sustains their homelessness which needs to be addressed. People with strong support networks can bounce back from a lot of difficulties. It's the unlucky few who end up on the sidewalk in abject despair.

I know I'd use lots of drugs.

Maybe the people peacefully living in tents outside of town should instead start being more visible and getting in people’s faces, if that’s what it takes to be a priority.

We’re not talking about “getting in people faces”, we’re talking about a situation that is extremely unsafe, for everyone, homeless and non-homeless alike. If you’re suggesting more of that, there’s something seriously wrong with you.

Wow, slow down on the insults, cowboy. All I’m saying is if you’re considering group A a more urgent priority for providing help to than group B, then you’re incintivizing group B to be more like group A.

Officials need to address the whole problem, not just the visible problem.

That's cowgirl to you.

So, if we prioritize, say, addiction treatment, more people will want to be addicts. Right.

Agreed. See also, on reddit:

/r/almosthomeless /r/homeless

even subs like /r/povertyfinance contain some people that live in their car at times.

I find it really interesting the difference in views on money between /r/povertyfinance, /r/personalfinance and /r/financialindependence.

What is the difference? I'm not going to read multiple posts in multiple subreddits that aren't esp. related to me while at work; elaborate on your point.

Living in a car is homeless.

I don't think they disagree. I think the person your replying to is writing it that way because the parent commenter are using that as anecdotal evidence for saying all the homeless they see have mental issues, without necessarily understanding a lot of homeless aren't necessarily people with mental issues living on street corners with the rest, as they imply.

What is it about the car, that it doesn't actually have living accomodation or that it is not a house and has no address? For example, does living in an RV mean you are homeless?

Under HUD’s definition, a car is not a place suitable for human habitation, so that’s clearly someone who’s homeless. An RV dweller may be considered homeless if they are in an “unstable” living situation (moved twice or more within the past 60 days), or if the RV is in such disrepair to not be suitable for habitation.

Edit: see https://www.urban-initiatives.org/reports/are-all-persons-sl...

speaking from experience, even a short gap during which you do not have an official address can create tremendous hurtles to getting housing, insurance, and employment.

There seem to be a lot of things like that in the USA, where if it happens even once or briefly, it screws up your life long term. Homelessness, poverty, seeking mental health help, arrest, prison, bankruptcy, a medical emergency. Every application form with a checkbox that says “Have you ever...” perpetuates this “gotcha” long-term punishment. Why does society insist on setting these traps for people?

Because everyone just cares about covering their ass and washing their hands. See all the comments above in the venue of "well, they're following the law, what else do you expect them to do?":

Cars, underpasses, camping tents, and cardboard boxes are not properly "homes".

Apartments, houses, yurts, and RVs are "homes".

Homes need to (1) provide adequate shelter, (2) have sufficient space, and (3) have access to water and waste facilities.

It's that they don't have a choice.

"Homeless" is a qualification metric that has a far darker history than being relevant at all to shelter or habitation. Metrics, even if not quantified, are always goal-oriented in providing an explanation or use. Even for something as "physically objective" as measuring time there is always an inherent question the metric is designed to answer, a problem to solve, or an ideology to support.

Do we define time as an anthropocentric artifact such as linking it to average modern human chronobiology markers or quirky orbital parameters of our homeworld, as a political artifact such as dividing the surface of the Earth into regions with artificial offsets to accommodate national or supranational policies such as industrial energy consumption management in resource crises or supporting coordination efforts of governance and military structures that have specific information-flow rate characteristics dependent on the availability of logistics mastery and locus diameter of projected force and interventional reach, as a capability artifact such as atomic clocks and the networking thereof with global navigation satellites and the Internet that require readily sourced technology supply chains for inexpensive manufacturing of electronics, refined knowledge of controlling engineering precision tolerances, and worldwide negotiation of protocol adoption, adherence, and upkeep in an effort for a singular master goal of providing location services at a scale relevant for the size and velocities of current weaponry?

That's just getting started on some of the ways we intend to measure the difference between one specific aspect of often fuzzy conformational states and the ever-present linguistic and cultural conflations of many competing metrics in different scenarios being erroneously regarded as the same thing.

So now, what does "homeless" mean? A better question is asking _why_ is such a metric required.

In _any_ large-scale society, the regulation of basic supplies such as shelter or food is designed (whether unconsciously emergent or not) to be artificially restricted as to maintain and stabilize certain systems through meeting goals of riot control, surveillance, profit, and inducing dependency and learned helplessness. This is a _universal_ property of any large-scale social structure although the terms I used are somewhat anachronistic and culturally-specific. If you're a competent spin doctor, you might say the goals to be met are respectively harmonization of inclusive diversity, identifying and personalizing the accommodation of individual needs in a vibrant community, allocating resources efficiently to maximize the full benefit of society, providing stability and reducing uncertainty by supporting people through difficult times and ensuring their mental health through wellness initiatives, holistic education, and self-actualizing opportunities.

Some purposes and scenarios a specific definition of "homeless" could help address:

- Criterion for administering supplies to highly specific, purposefully carved out population demographics as gerrymandered token aid in placating increasingly unruly members when systemic defects start to shine through where resources are unavailable or unwilling to be used and a cheap patch is preferred over rehauling a design that would inevitably converge back to the same problems anyways but also ensues a risk or requirement that even in a non-zero-sum outcome the standards of living for certain individuals would go down just by changing things up since an important aspect of perceived well-being in most humans is completely due to relative posturing and takes time for hedonic adaptation to kick-in while also presenting a predicted future cost and stressor to avoid in calculations of whether to allow change or persecute it.

- Identifying and targeting threats to the status quo. This could be either the traditional fear of resistive violence, but far more likely and subtle is control of members exiting from the current system into perpetual self-reliance which is far more subversive and damaging than a mob a rioters destroying some infrastructure. Opting out of debt and dependency by living far below your means without a permanent address outside of social expectations and control places a huge burden on the sustainability of traditional ways when people start to realize there are alternatives to the living plan laid out for you by someone else.

- Ensuring a proper scapegoat for "bad things". A fundamental mode of human conflict resolution is avoidance of responsibility and instead mutual externalized blame on a concept that is ill-defined, irrefutable, and circular-causative or a marginalized outsider that has no capability for either refutation, redress, retaliation, nor rehabilitation.

- Unavoidable persuasive rhetoric deficiencies in logos, ethos, or kairos that requires the pathos of either compassion or spite to be anywhere near convincing when the argument for various policies are not only self-damaging to the audience but also infeasible, intractable, ill-conceived, ineffective, irrational, irrelevant, and ironic.

Homeless, but not shelterless. Worse than apartment, better than a tent.

I'd rather live in a tent than in a car. Fortunately tents are relatively cheap, so if you have a car you can probably also afford a tent to sleep in.

I dunno. Tents have a better form factor, but cars provide better weather isolation, durability, and physical security.

They are much more expensive though.

I'm not against programs to help people who can't afford normal housing. However, that's not the specific, hugely obvious problem in Seattle.

Maybe there’s more than one problem worth addressing in Seattle?

Agreed, there are many problems worth solving in Seattle, but some are more clearly urgent public health problems than others.

The world's largest drill keeps getting stuck in the cars buried beneath the city.

Northwest Harvest's food bank lost their lease on Cherry Street, but there's still a soup kitchen under the overpass, supporting the unofficial Cherry Street Tent City.

Almost certainly, and they almost certainly need very different solutions.

These people don't tend to cause problems, much unlike the homeless population in say Pioneer Square.

A couple of things: one, there is a selection bias involved, as another responder pointed out. You don't see the non-addicted, non-mentally ill homeless, or at least when you do you might not even realize they are homeless. Unless someone is pan handling, a homeless person doesn't wear a sign saying they are homeless. You probably walk by countless homeless people on the street that you don't realize you are homeless. Only the drug addicted/mentally ill ones look like the homeless you are thinking about.

Second, your observations won't tell you whether the drug addiction caused the homelessness or vice versa. Many homeless people turn to drugs to cope.

Third, you don't have to live on the streets to be homeless. Those people who are crashing at friends and living in unstable group housing situations are homeless.

Before you draw conclusions about all homeless people based on the the ones hanging out in Pioneer Square, I challenge YOU to go to a homeless shelter like Mary's place and learn a bit about the people living there. My fiancee is a doctor in the Central District and deals with homeless people every single day. A huge number of them are working families with children who work in the city and can't afford to rent, commute, or find a job in a cheaper area.

> This isn’t popular, but...

Sorry to break it to you, but you're not the independent thinker you might believe you are:

"Drug and alcohol abuse tops the list among the general public as a major factor why some people might be homeless. More than eight in ten (85%) adults feel this is a major factor. "

"Mental illness or related mental disorders such as post traumatic stress disorder are cited by two-thirds (67%)."


Further, homelessness worsens addiction, mental illness, overall health. It becomes a downward spiral.

Resident of Seattle here, who has spent a number of years volunteering with a variety of homeless services (Real Change, Urban Rest Stop, for the other locals on here).

I think you're right that the WORST of the homeless crisis is due to addiction and mental illness, but honestly that's only about half (edited [1]) or so of the homeless population.

The majority of the homeless or near-homeless people who use the city services try to stay off the grid as much as possible as to not draw any trouble upon themselves. The unfortunate reality of this scenario is that the public typically only sees the worst of the problem, and deems it nearly impossible to fix. I understand why that is the perception, but it's not taking into account the large population of homeless people who are mentally stable. I was also plesantly surprised by the large number of the homeless who are sober as to not be spending the little money they collect on expensive addictions.

[1] - https://sunrisehouse.com/addiction-demographics/homeless-pop...

To be clear, I have volunteered with a number of organizations that help the homeless in Seattle. I don't know where you're getting 25-30% from, but that doesn't match with my experience -- I'm inclined to believe it's much higher, but it can really depend on what neighborhood you're in.

I am really confused as to how your personal experience would ever be able to figure out the actual percentage of homeless people who suffer from mental illness/drug addiction. No amount of experience would tell you those percentages, because no experience would have you meeting with a uniform sample of the homeless. Your experience is always going to have a huge selection bias.

It takes rigorous research, with properly accounted for selection biases, to determine actual ratios of the population as a whole.

I mostly agree. But, surely, you'd agree that personal experience, especially extensive personal experience, might give one an inkling about whether a particular statistic is accurate. I wasn't arguing anything more.

I've looked at a number of studies about this. In general, it's hard to find much agreement between them about actual numbers. I suspect some of that is related to how "homelessness" and "mental illness" or "addiction" are defined by the people doing the studies, but most indicate that some kind of majority are influenced by one or more of those issues.

Ah sorry, mis-remembered the stats. Here's the number I was thinking of:

25% have a mental illness 35% have a substance issue


Watch your causality.

You know what helps mental illness and addiction? Stability.

The kind of stability you get from knowing where you'll sleep each night, knowing that you'll be safe, not simply trying to survive each day.

It is a complicated problem. There are no magic bullets, no panaceas, but it's ludicrous to think that housing per se isn't a major aspect of this issue. The threat of homelessness introduces anxiety that exacerbates mental problems and leads toward drug abuse. The reality of it is no better. Don't confuse causes and symptoms; the many aspects of homelessness are tightly linked and teasing out causality is no easy task.

We can't expect everyone to have the presence of mind, at a dark and low point in their lives, to uproot their entire lives and find new housing and a new job in a completely new area. Many don't have any kind of support network to make that work, or know of the services or resources that could make that happen, if they even exist.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Most of the addicted once had stability, but lost it because they would not give up their addiction(s).

The literature disagrees. The causes of addiction are complex, but are broadly based in factors that are reasonably considered 'instability' in the colloquial sense. These include things like adolescent abuse, SES, disengagement from 'conventional' society, mental illness, etc. There is a genetic component, but its contribution is relatively modest.

The trope of a well-functioning adult succumbing to the allure of drug abuse is a red herring.


'Could not' is probably a fairer and more accurate description of the disease of addiction.

I've never once in my life met an addicted person that preferred to stay addicted, have you?

I used to think this, but I live near a few encampments in Oakland and I see new arrivals regularly who start with ok cars, clean tents and tarps, who get up early (when I'm on my way to work) and clean up - very much like me car camping.

It's really sad to see, but even worse is recognizing them later after they've clearly fallen into heavy drug use.

Yes, we need harm reduction for drugs, and mental health care, but the housing crisis is exacerbating those two problems.

That is actually a very popular opinion, and also very poorly informed. Your reasoning is entirely anecdotal and a trivial exercise in confirmation bias.

Here's one article (among many) exploring why "Seattle's homeless population went up 44% in the last two years."[1] Spoiler: it's not because addiction and mental illness went up 44%.

[1] https://q13fox.com/2017/12/06/seattles-homeless-population-w...

That link didn't say anything about why the homeless population went up, other than "rents went up".

It doesn't explain what stops people from looking for jobs in other, cheaper places, which is something I'm struggling to understand

> It doesn't explain what stops people from looking for jobs in other, cheaper places, which is something I'm struggling to understan

What's hard to understand? Moving anywhere for a new job is expensive, and most people (even those with well-above-median incomes) have no savings. Most jobs don't include relocation, and the first paycheck doesn't come for ~4 weeks after starting. That means that moving as one person bringing nothing with you, you still need to house yourself for a month with no income, likely no connections (since you've moved somewhere presumably away from the family/friends in your hometown), and where you have no idea about local circumstances.

Maybe there's a difference of perspective here. My parents are both one of many, many siblings who were all born in Pakistan.

Their opportunities in Pakistan were pretty poor, so most of those siblings chose to emigrate and leave. Now most of those siblings are spread out around the US and Canada. My family moved to the US from Pakistan after his employer in Pakistan was unable to pay it's employees for months and we started from scratch here. This isn't just a new city, but a whole new country and culture.

All those siblings had to struggle like crazy to establish themselves, but it wasn't impossible.

Clearly there's a different perspective that others like yourself are seeing which I haven't understood.

Very often conservatives will tell "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" stories that worked for them. But there are literally tens of millions of people in Pakistan who cannot even afford the plane tickets yet along the other costs of moving their entire family internationally. That your family could do that indicates that it had relatively good resources. Also, you didn't mention whether your family had an immigrant community network here that could help you get started and find work. Your case is no doubt an example of hard work and struggle but it is not proof that addiction and mental illness are the primary things keeping people homeless.

There is a link between homelessness and addiction, but it's not the primary one.

Several years ago I quit a stressful job, left a stressful living situation and ended up staying with a friend. I went to social services in SF to get health insurance benefits to make sure I could continue getting medication I'd been on for years. When I applied they classified me as "homeless". If you saw me on the street or on the bus next to you, you probably wouldn't have called me homeless.

It's helpful for most social programs to have a broad definition of "homeless". It allows granting assistance before an individual actually ends up living on the street. When most people think of "homeless" they envision a person passed out on the street under a dingy blanket who's probably high or mentally ill. That definition is a harmful one and it prevents the community from getting involved in solving the problem. They don't want "those people" living in shelters that might be built in their neighborhood.

For every mentally ill/addicted homeless person you see living on the street there are probably 2 or 3 living in temporary housing because they can no longer afford a place of their own.

Lived in California for close to two years and I agree.

The streets may not be the best sample though.

There are homeless people who work and live in their cars.

Getting government and NIMBYISM out of housing policy will lead to affordable housing and is paramount to fixing this.

Opportunity Zone Investments should also help some.

>Getting government and NIMBYISM out of housing policy will lead to affordable housing and is paramount to fixing this.

The trick is getting government and nimbyism out of housing policy while getting them into drug and mental illness treatment at the same time. These days it doesn't seem like there's a political party that can handle that kind of nuance. It feels like it's either expand government on all fronts or retreat on all fronts and that's not what's needed here.

Seattle's homeless camping problem has gotten really out of hand in the last 2 years.

I moved away about a year and a half ago, when homeless tents were pretty common. When I visited recently, it was stunning how much worse it is. Almost every green space in the city (except for popular parks) is filled with tents. It's really crazy.

Homelessness is a problem. Camping is a (weak) solution.

Its an unsafe solution. There have been a number of fires in homeless camps in the East Bay and as larger camps continue to be built there will be more. Recreational camping tents are not safe for semi-permanent use. They are fire hazards.

I'm not sure where you suggest they live, they're homeless...

It's one of the side-effects of having a relatively nice climate.

Quite frankly, given how many decades Seattle has had a significant homeless population, I'm surprised the city hasn't taken point on treatment and housing programs. They have a unique opportunity to really help a lot of people out if they'd step up and do it.

Defining what you mean by the term 'homeless' is actually very important to having productive discussions about homelessness. The vast majority of people are referring to people living on the streets when they take issue with the homeless. They are not referring to people who are living in their cars or whatever.

Yes, and that's exactly the issue, because people living in their cars also need help, and ignoring them because they don't have mental health issues or sleep on the sidewalk compared to other parts of the homeless population is ignorant and stupid.

I don't disagree, but in Seattle, the streets are a huge problem.

Often the addiction comes after the homelessness as a mechanism to combat boredom and cold.

Mental illness, financial circumstance and relationship breakdowns (family or spouse) are indeed common initial causes. Especially PTSD in veterans.

Many people want to tackle homelessness by providing homes first rather than addiction help.

Without a home and some semblance of stability people can’t cope with addiction or find jobs. The approach is meant to be very effective and makes sense when you consider how difficult it would be for someone without a house to take their meds on time, show up regularly for a job, or get counseling and suppprt.

> but I’d challenge anyone who thinks homelessness in Seattle isn’t primarily an addiction and mental illness problem

It's not easy to detox from opioids if you don't have a home, or to get treatment for mental illness if you live on the streets.

We have a pretty good idea that housing first works, and is probably cheaper than other approaches.




My experience in Seattle matches yours, but I think its because other types of homeless people are generally less proud/open about their situation. I think also, for better or worse, most people in Seattle are referring to this most obvious segment of the homeless population when they talk about the crisis. Despite this, its still hard for me to overlook that almost all of the homeless people I've spoken with/met are either- struggling with serious mental health issues/drug problems, or 'urban survivalist' types who say they are on street by choice (It could also be that once your homeless its better to decide that its a choice).

This isn’t popular, but I’d challenge anyone who thinks homelessness in Seattle isn’t primarily an addiction and mental illness problem to go spend a few afternoons in areas with significant homeless populations

Chronic homelessness is at the very least, a huge confounding factor in terms of social work, combating addiction, and treating mental illness. If someone doesn't have a stable address and someone else has to go out to one of several encampments in a dry river bed just to find them to deliver treatment or services, those services are going to be much more expensive. The living conditions themselves are also going to exacerbate the problems to be treated. This is why it's commonly thought that the 20% of the homeless population which falls into the "chronic" category accounts for most of the crisis services expense caused by the homeless.

>but I’d challenge anyone who thinks homelessness in Seattle isn’t primarily an addiction and mental illness problem

Ya, there's a fraction of homelessness that's caused by that but even if it was 100% caused by that, which it's not, it is still a big problem that needs to be solved. If only not to have people living in the street. It doesn't help when a big company is not paying its fair share of the tax base and adding to the problem by attracting workers and paying them a wage that doesn't allow them to afford to live where they work or squeezing out the lower level workers out of their homes because the cost of living skyrockets.

First of all, those people are only one part of the homeless population. Not all homeless people are drugged out or mentally ill, and the ones who aren't don't want to be around the addicts and mentally ill any more than anybody else. You're more or less seeing a self-selected group of the worst elements of the homeless population.

And I didn't see any details in the article, but it'd a good thing if some of this donation goes towards helping homeless people with addiction and mental illness. They're definitely contributing factors for some people.

The chronically street homeless, are very different, and far more visible than those who experience homelessness and housing insecurity that have the mental stability to either find someone to stay with temporarily or take advantage of shelter services.

This fund targets homeless families, these aren't groups of people you see shooting heroin on the street corner yet they make up a sizable part of the homeless population.

So I'm confused; you agree that housing is a problem (people move away or move in with others/into legally gray housing situations), and you agree that substance abuse and mental healthcare are problems.

Taken together, you're agreeing to the same set of problems that are popularly agreed upon as being problems. Seems like you're just quibbling?

You're only seeing one part of the situation. I've been homeless and it wasn't apparent to anyone I didn't tell. That's what makes the issue so hard, the assumption is that you're part of that crowd who needs medical attention when all you need is access to opportunity

this sounds like really anecdotal evidence. do you have any reliable sources to back up your claim?

And because people are mentally ill or addicted means you can just ignore them?

Not to imly anything but why do you think they got addicted / mentally ill and then end up in the streets and not the other way around?

That misses all the homeless people who are living in their vans

If Portland, Oregon is any indication, you forgot the military veterans segment of the homeless community.


Why are you assuming I'm a bro just cause I'm on hacker news? 1950s are calling you.

Get back to me when you have something logical to say, not just ad hominems...

If you have no idea how prevalent mental illness is in homeless people, and also its role as the single most important contributing cause, then you are commenting from a position of ignorance. Instead of devoting effort to virtue signaling you'd do better if you educated yourself on the problem.

If we go by these sources[1][2], homelessness is overwhelmingly an economic issue.

That's not to say mental illness isn't a contributing factor, just that the lynchpin into homelessness stems from economic factors, like insufficient income or lack of affordable housing.

[1] http://homelessresourcenetwork.org/?page_id=1086

[2] https://www.nlchp.org/documents/Homeless_Stats_Fact_Sheet

When you subsidize poverty you are going to have more of it and local bodies love these people as the establishment can always buy their votes through doles.

This actually hurts the real needy people who are trying to get by.

I tend to be fairly opposed to the do-nothing stance taken by West Coast cities with regard to homeless camping, but I don't think it has anything to do with a vote buying conspiracy. There are much simpler explanations.

> There are much simpler explanations.


Yeah, or just that it's actually really difficult to take care of people who don't want to operate inside of any sort of reasonable framework.

Under that logic paying people making a billion per year would encourage more billionaires. Clearly that wouldn't help create any more of them.

While incentives are powerful they still require an actual mechanism to work.

As for buying votes that assumes so many facts not in evidence it isn't funny in addition to being flat out prejudicial - when the budget is spent on something I support it is deserved when it is on others it is bribery. Actual vote buying was solved centuries ago with the secret ballot.


You are taking your personal anecdotes and extrapolating. No one would disagree with you that mental illness and addiction are major factors in homelessness. But your argument is like saying, anyone who doesn't believe everyone in the world is wealthy go spend some time in Medina. It's a ridiculous argument.

I've had a class on Homelessness and Public Policy and I've been homeless.

Addiction is not, per se, a major root cause of homelessness. There are people with addictions who have careers. If addiction caused homelessness, then getting addicted would land people on the street as a routine consequence.

People see homeless individuals do X and conclude "X causes homelessness" or is otherwise some inherent trait of "those people" and it's usually unfounded.

Addiction is absolutely a major cause of homelessness.

No. Addiction is rooted in the same intractable personal problems that lead to homelessness.

People on the street are often using street drugs in place of prescription medication, sometimes by preference because, for example, they have a psych diagnosis and street drugs have preferable side effects to the medication they are supposed to be on.

I knew a bipolar man somewhat well who was homeless. He smoked marijuana in preference to the prescription drugs he refused to take. He was unemployable due to his undamaged mental health issue, not because he toked. Toking was just how he got by. He wouldn't have been more functional without pot. He likely would have been less functional.

We still don't have a slam dunk cure for most mental health issues. As long as this remains true, it is problematic to act like addiction is not merely a side effect of the problem and, instead, to pretend it somehow causes the problems an individual has.

Saying addiction is the problem is a little like blaming chemotherapy for ruining someone's life and not acknowledging the underlying cancer as a problem.

I didn't say addiction is the problem, I said it was a major cause of homelessness, so I don't really understand the downvotes.

The National Coalition on Homelessness seems to agree, citing "A 2008 survey by the United States Conference of Mayors asked 25 cities for their top three causes of homelessness. Substance abuse was the single largest cause of homelessness for single adults (reported by 68% of cities). Substance abuse was also mentioned by 12% of cities as one of the top three causes of homelessness for families. According to Didenko and Pankratz (2007), two-thirds of homeless people report that drugs and/or alcohol were a major reason for their becoming homeless."

The American Public Health Association as well states, "On an individual level, persons who have a problem with alcohol and/or other drugs, and who are in marginal economic circumstances, are at especially high risk for homelessness."[1]

The road to addiction is complex, and yes mental health treatment should absolutely be better in the United States, but to claim that addiction is not a risk factor to homelessness is disingenuous.

[0] http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/addiction.pdf [1] https://www.apha.org/policies-and-advocacy/public-health-pol...

I was homeless for nearly six years. I did no drugs, but I had the myriad underlying personal problems that so frequently lead to drug use.

What I'm trying to tell you is people blame drug use when it is really more like a symptom than a cause. It's like saying "The pain killers did it."

The conclusion winds up being that if people wouldn't do drugs, their lives would work. The reality is more like if their lives worked, they wouldn't do drugs.

Again, it's like saying "Chemotherapy causes homelessness!" because some folks on the street are having a medical crisis. If you just stopped chemo cold, it wouldn't get them off the street and now their cancer is going unchecked.

There are things you can do that help, like improve the crappy American health care system. But "Just don't do chemo" isn't an answer but that's exactly how substance abuse gets addressed.

Think of it this way: Most people on the street are male. No one goes around saying in all seriousness "Just don't be male. Problem solved!"

I am not sure how hanging out with a particular group of homeless people is going to let you understand homelessness as a whole. It will only tell you about that particular group of homeless people.

Your argument makes no sense. "Go where the mentally ill homeless people hang out, therefore most homeless people are mentally ill." Homeless who are not mentally ill do not congregate together (why would you want to hang out with other people specifically because they are homeless?), mentally ill people and drug addicts like to hang out together.

This is selection bias of two kinds.

First, you are going to a known location which increases the concentration of one type of homeless person in space.

Second, you are looking at a particular point in time, which will increase your odds of seeing chronic homeless people versus people who have had a brush with homelessness.

Mental illness and drug addiction are absolutely a big part of the chronic homeless problem. Either as a cause (schizophrenic people are more likely to wind up homeless) or as a negative feedback loop (extended extreme stress can made addictive escapes more tempting, and can cause a psychotic break).

However drug use and mental illness are not the main things determining whether temporary homelessness becomes chronic homelessness. And programs that attempt to solve that should look very different than ones which try to help the chronic homeless.

I would say the same is true here in Toronto. Almost all the homeless I see appear to fit either of those two descriptors, either clearly mentally ill, drug users who are tweaking, or they have the signs of extreme drug use (visible scabs where they repeatedly inject), or are day drinking right there on the street. I'm not implying anything like they don't deserve help or whatever, I'm just agreeing that affordable housing or subsidies or something of that nature would have almost zero impact on homelessness IMO.

How do you know people don't become mentally ill or homeless after losing their home and their life spiralling out of control? Or perhaps that if you have a support structure you can manage mental illness?

If you don't have money or friends, what group housing would you find?

Why would you move to a different city, away from everyone you know, if you don't have a job to pay bills?

> How do you know people don't become mentally ill or homeless after losing their home

Because a substantial portion already have a history of mental problems before they became homeless, and typically they find themselves homeless because they reach adulthood and thus their primary caretaker either can't or won't be able to keep them off the streets. I personally know a couple of homeless individials that suffered from schizophrenia who found thenselves on the streets after their patents passed away.

People could also just call all homeless people mentally ill. I mean, they didn't pick themselves up by their bootstraps, right?

I think it's a cop-out to call most of the non-drug-addicted ones mentally ill, as a way of lumping them in with the drug addicts.

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