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The Damaging Interaction Between Homelessness and Recovery

Protections against evictions for Virginians as COVID continues to surge across the nation. However, this eviction moratorium may come too late for some communities who have been struggling with other COVID-related challenges as the months of quarantine continue. People who are homeless, those with mental health disorders, and individuals in recovery have faced unique challenges during the pandemic that need direct response.

The symptoms of these challenges are proving to be deadly for some. The effects can be seen in the skyrocketing numbers of overdoses and suicides. In the recovery community, we know how hard it is to focus on recovery during normal times. The pandemic has made things that much harder.

Victor McKenzie Jr., Executive Director of SAARA, explains in a recent interview for Virginia Mercury, “people already struggling with addiction faced other issues: ‘Am I going to be able to pay my bills? Am I going to be able to stay in my house? Am I going to be able to afford food?’ All of the sudden, you have these added stressors and triggers that make it really hard for someone to focus on their recovery.”

During a Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week event hosted by DBHDA, Office of Community Housing, Strength In Peers, and VOCAL, discussion turned to the role the recovery community plays in finding housing solutions people who are homeless. A large component of Permanent Supportive Housing programs is the simultaneous assistance of recovery services—including peer support. Access to treatment resources is extremely important during the housing process.

Successfully seeking and maintaining long term recovery is less likely while also facing homelessness. In fact, The National Coalition for the Homeless found that 38% of homeless people are alcohol dependent, and 36% are dependent on other substances. Because of this, finding safe housing for homeless individuals would be one of the best things for their recovery journey.

Between the ongoing effect of COVID on recovery and the uncertainty in housing many individuals are facing as the weather gets colder, it is important that we focus on the interplay between these issues. Prioritizing solutions for one problem while putting the others on the back burner will not create the recovery-focused housing environment many people need. A holistic approach, centered on the unique needs of the individual, will join the recovery community’s efforts with those fighting to provide a home for those in need.

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