Homelessness & Alcoholism

Addiction is a disease that directly impacts the brain.

When an individual is addicted to a substance, it can change the way that the neural pathways in the brain work.

This often means that the individual can find it hard to break the cycle of addiction, as their brain changes more and more to increase the risk of developing addictive habits and seeking more of the substance.

With alcohol addictions specifically, the area of the brain affected is the area responsible for the production of serotonin.

If an individual is consuming large amounts of alcohol on a regular base, their body will be used to the high levels of serotonin, becoming dependent on alcohol for its production of it.

This is known as physical dependence and is one of the main reasons why alcohol is such as dangerous substance. This especially affects individuals looking to begin the detoxification process and experience withdrawal symptoms.

Homelessness & Alcoholism

Homeless man

There are many stereotypes about alcoholism and homelessness, but there is a serious issue when it comes to homeless individuals and their alcohol consumption.

Often, these individuals are shunned by society and there are many negative stereotypes concerning what type of people they are and the other activities they engage in.

In most cases, however, this is simply not the case.

Some research suggests that alcoholism affects around 30% to 40% of homeless individuals, with the rates slightly lower for drug abuse at around 10% to 15%. (1)

This is a significant rate and is causing more and more research into this field due to the connotations of this level of addiction within a specific community or demographic.

In some cases, alcoholism may be the reason for homelessness, and in others, homelessness may be the cause of alcoholism. This differs across every individual and is specific to their situation and the future support that they require.

Why Might an Individual become Homeless?

There are many reasons why an individual may become homeless and potentially consequently develop an alcohol addiction.

The most common of these are listed below:

  • Alcoholism – if an individual is already addicted to alcohol, then they may experience issues with their familial relationships, financial position, and residing at home.
  • Relationship issues – sometimes as a result of disagreements, abuse, or irreparable differences, an individual may choose to leave home rather than stay. This can be with any family member or roommate e.g., parent, sibling, partner
  • Financial issues – if an individual is unable to pay for their rent or mortgage, then they may be evicted from their home, leading to a struggle to find alternative accommodation

This is not a complete list, and there are many further reasons why an individual may become homeless, but these are the key factors, especially when considering alcoholism and its origins/worsening.

Why are Homeless Individuals more Likely to Develop an Addiction to Alcohol?

As previously mentioned, there are strong links between homelessness and alcoholism – how one may affect the other and vice versa.

In the majority of cases, individuals who are homeless may struggle with alcoholism as they are using it as a coping mechanism.

By drinking large quantities of alcohol regularly, the individual may feel more positively about their situation or be in a state where they may not be fully aware of their situation.

If this is the reason, then the individual can quickly fall into a habit of constantly drinking. This may come hand in hand with stealing or begging in the streets in order to get their next drink.

These individuals are constantly seeking the feeling of being drunk, making them at a far higher risk of developing an addiction or worsening an existing addiction.

In most cases, individuals who develop an addiction to alcohol are more likely to remain homeless for longer periods of time. This is because their consumption may make them unable to seek external help and support, delaying their access to care and their future treatment and recovery.

Dual Diagnosis among Homeless Individuals

Person looking sad

Often in the diagnosis of addiction, individuals are diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder – a disorder that occurs simultaneously with the addiction.

This is known as a dual diagnosis and is an extremely popular approach to addiction rehabilitation due to its focus on multiple disorders and the effects of both.

Common co-occurring disorders include anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, though these are only the most common.

For homeless individuals, this is especially common due to the added stresses and pressures of living on the street. Homeless individuals report high levels of depression and anxiety especially, with the added issues of alcoholism as well. (2)

When seeking suitable rehabilitation, it is important that individuals find an addiction support service provider that focuses on both (or all) disorders.

Rehab 4 Alcoholism’s referral service ensures that all suggestions made through our services follow this approach, but individuals seeking external support should also check this before entering or beginning any treatments.

Gender Differences in Homeless Alcoholism

Homelessness differs between genders.

For example, women are more likely to become homeless as a result of eviction or domestic abuse whereas men are more likely to become homeless due to alcohol abuse, being released from prison, or unemployment. (3)

Domestic abuse is another key factor contributing to the increased rate of alcoholism among all individuals, though it is more common for women.

In a small case study, it was found that around 25% of homeless young women struggled with addictions to alcohol, with the majority of them having a history of physical or sexual abuse. (4)

Homeless men, however, were more likely to struggle with chronic depression and other serious mental health issues that require mental health support – something which is not yet widely available to individuals who may be living on the streets, though is becoming increasingly available.

Inpatient Care for Homeless Individuals Struggling with Alcoholism


For any individual struggling with addiction, inpatient care is generally the first suggestion that individuals should consider.

This refers to rehabilitative care received whilst inside a rehab centre, taking part in everyday rehab activities as part of a daily routine.

Individuals undergoing inpatient care will also receive a tailored addiction treatment programme for their specific needs.

For individuals addicted to alcohol, this may include a managed and monitored detox session followed by further therapy and rehabilitative activities to ensure treatment of all effects of addiction – both positive and negative.

Inpatient care is most suitable for individuals with a long history of addiction, addictions to a physically addictive substance (such as alcohol, heroin, and other opioids), and issues with recovering outside of a centre.

This is not always suitable for every individual but is generally the first option suggested due to its high success rate and efficiency in treating individuals struggling with addiction.

Outpatient Care for Homeless Individuals Struggling with Alcoholism

Outpatient care, therefore, refers to any rehabilitation partaken outside of a dedicated rehab centre.

This may involve going to local council buildings or clinics in order to receive treatment on a more part-time basis.

Though treatment is not part of a daily routine, it will be regular. It is therefore just as essential that individuals commit to, attend, and engage in the treatments that they have chosen or have been suggested.

Without the proper motivation to recover and engagement in addiction treatment programmes, individuals are unlikely to make any progress in terms of their rehabilitation and it will not be effective.

Many of the treatments partaken in as part of outpatient treatments are the same as those partaken in within a rehab centre. Still, they are, as previously mentioned, less frequently, and perhaps not as specialised and the tailored programmes within dedicated centres.

How Rehab 4 Alcoholism can Help

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If you are seeking help for yourself, or for someone that you may know, then Rehab 4 Alcoholism is ready to guide you through every step of the journey.

Our team is made up of friendly, professional, and non-judgemental members, meaning that every call is dealt with in the most supportive way possible.

Through our addiction support line, our team can provide advice and suggestions for the individual’s next steps in rehab, referrals to addiction service providers, and begin the enrolment process for dedicated rehab centres.

If the cost of rehab is something that you may struggle with, then this is also something we can provide support for.

We offer financial advice and support for those who need it, helping all individuals access the help they need.

To get in touch, call our addiction support line on 0800 111 4108 today – we are ready and waiting to help.


[1] McCarty, D., Argeriou, M., Huebner, R.B. and Lubran, B., 1991. Alcoholism, drug abuse, and the homeless. American Psychologist46(11), p.1139.

[2] Perry, J. and Craig, T.K., 2015. Homelessness and mental health. Trends in Urology & Men’s Health6(2), pp.19-21.

[3] Hagen, J.L., 1987. Gender and homelessness. Social work32(4), pp.312-316.

[4] Anderson, S.C., Boe, T. and Smith, S., 1988. Homeless women. Affilia3(2), pp.62-70.