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Substance abuse seen as contributor to homelessness, but behind other factors

December 28, 2015
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Substance abuse and the lack of needed services to combat it ranked only fourth as a leading cause of homelessness among single adults in a 22-city survey on hunger and homelessness conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. City officials cited lack of affordable housing, poverty, and mental illness and the lack of needed services ahead of substance abuse as contributing causes.

Survey results, released Dec. 22, found 58% of responding cities reporting an increase in their total homeless population over the past year. However, 53% of the cities reported a decrease in the number of homeless families with children in their communities. Substance abuse did not rank in the top four causes of homelessness in families in the survey.

City officials listed development of assisted housing and permanent supportive housing for persons with disabilities among the most impactful actions that can be taken to reduce homelessness.

The survey also found that because of a lack of available beds in emergency shelters, these operations in 76% of the survey cities had to turn away homeless families with children in the past year, and in 61% of the cities had to turn away single homeless individuals.