The Salvation Army are Wrong: Addiction and Homelessness are Linked

On the 3rd February, ITV Scotland reported that 43% of residents at a homeless shelter are there because of a relationship break down. Only 10% of those interviewed gave drugs or alcohol as the reason.

The poll was commissioned by the Salvation Army, who concluded that greater education is needed to change perceptions about homelessness.

“Yes, alcohol and drugs may be a problem for people experiencing homelessness”, said a¬†Salvation Army spokesman.¬†“But, as our survey of our Lifehouse residents shows, these are rarely the cause. Instead it tends to be the breakdown of a relationship – something that can happen to anyone at any time.”

This leaves open the question of what causes the relationship breakdown? If a survey was conducted of relationship breakdown, how often would drugs or alcohol be found to be among the causes?

On the same day as this poll, a report was released by LlankellyChase Foundation and Heriot-Watt University. This report described itself as, “the most robust research to date on people with multiple complex needs.”

What did the research conclude? That there is a “huge overlap” between the substance misusing and homeless populations.

Rather than a change in public perceptions and “greater education”, the report called for a more integrated system of social care.

It is all very well for the Salvation Army to try and change perceptions about homelessness, but the link between addiction, social break-down and homelessness is not something to be disproved. It is something to be tackled. And that process is going to need earlier intervention and better treatment services for alcoholics and drug addicts.

Photo courtesy of Colin Brough at

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