Homeless & Addicted

142 people die from an opioid overdose every day in America. But to be homeless and addicted presents a unique set of challenges  


Substance abuse is both a cause and a result of homelessness, often arising after people lose their housing. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2003) estimates 38% of homeless people were dependent on alcohol and 26% abused other drugs. Alcohol abuse is more common in older generations, while drug abuse is more common in homeless youth and young adults (Didenko and Pankratz, 2007). 


When cities look to simply clean up areas where those with substance abuse issues congregate, like Philadelphia did with “The Tracks” in Kensington, that public appearance of action masks the real impacts of that action. 


When Philadelphia closed "The Tracks," they cited safety as a major reason for the action. In reality, the people who frequented the area actually had a loosely organized community which included a few people who would give medical aid to those who overdosed. With the closing of "The Tracks," everyone who frequented the area was thrust out onto the city's streets, in most cases without that tenuous safety net that treated overdose victims quickly.


Underpasses became "home" to some of these people. Trains running at all hours above them, cars driving past around the clock only feet from where they are sleeping, and no efforts from the city to help these people work to end their addiction. The great majority of people in situations like this operate solely in survival mode, often depending on community groups for such luxuries as food, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, coats, shoes, and blankets.


If you'd like to help these people survive, visit and search for the PhillyUnknown Project wish list, which changes seasonally and based on current needs. Volunteers go out weekly (sometimes multiple times) to distribute donations, so this time next week your donation will literally be helping someone survive life on the streets.


If you’d like to read more about the opioid crisis and it’s impact on the homeless population, click here to read a fact sheet from the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.