Dunkley: Homeless drug use must be addressed
A recent study has shown that one third of the Island’s homeless have suffered drug or alcohol problems in the past year, with the majority having never received treatment.
Speaking in the House of Assembly this morning, Premier Michael Dunkley revealed the results of a recent study of the Island’s homeless, carried out by the Department for National Drug Control.
He said that of the 165 people who participated in the survey, two thirds said that drugs and/or alcohol was a major reason for their homelessness.
“In some situations, however, substance abuse is a result of homelessness rather than a cause,” Mr Dunkley said. “People who are homeless often turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their situation.
“When it came to illegal substances, 37 per cent of homeless persons reported current use of marijuana, with 12.7 per cent and 11.5 per cent saying they used crack and cocaine respectively in the past 30 days.
“However the highest level of prevalence-of-use was evident for the two legal substances, cigarettes and alcohol, where 75.2 per cent and 65.5 per cent of the homeless persons reported that they use these substances.”
He noted that those studied spend on average $100 per month on alcohol and $50 per month on drugs, with most of the money being obtained by begging or panhandling.
“It can also be inferred that their substance use is supported by getting alcohol and drugs from others at no cost,” Mr Dunkley said. “The evidence suggests that a large number of homeless persons reported current use of tobacco, alcohol and marijuana.
“Almost one third indicated drug and alcohol problems in the past year, yet 77 per cent of the respondents reported that they have never been treated for alcohol and drugs in their lifetime. This statistic is one that needs to be addressed. Since substance abuse is both viewed as a cause and result of homelessness, these issues need to be addressed simultaneously.”
Mr Dunkley said that drug treatment programmes require that mental heath disorders are addressed before treatment begins, and that the Mental Health Court programme is making efforts to ensure mental health service continues while people are still in residential treatment facilities.
“Substance abuse treatment on its own is inadequate and needs to be combined with supported housing opportunities, followed by a long term housing solution,” he continued. “In Bermuda, often persons who are homeless complete treatment and have no place to go and become a placement challenge, often times ending up at the shelter where they are re-exposed to substance use and relapse.
“If housing, treatment and other social service agencies work together toward developing a comprehensive response to the problems of homeless substance users, the whole community will benefit.”
• For the full ministerial statement, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”.