New York Shitty Day Ender: Sweet Dreams

Manhattan Avenue: September 1, 2011

Jerzy Popieluszko Square: September 1, 2011

From the University of Texas’s web site:

The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) has released a report entitled “Solutions for Homeless Chronic Alcoholics in Austin”. According to the report, 35-40% of the U.S. homeless population struggles with alcoholism as compared to just 5% of the housed population. The report estimated that out of the 3,451 homeless people in Austin, 1,208 homeless people had some form of alcohol problem and 875 suffered from chronic substance abuse.

At times, the addiction to alcohol is so great that when faced with the choice between sobering up for a shelter or staying on the streets, many alcoholics stay on the streets. Some are so addicted that they are willing to drink harmful substances like mouthwash to supplement their bodies’ need for alcohol. The report also states that 150 homeless people died due to alcohol-related deaths on the streets of Austin last year. Individuals with the most severe forms of alcoholism are the most in danger of dying on the streets and are the most frequent users of resources (i.e. hospitals, police, court systems). Severe alcoholics have a need to drink all day, which causes them to be unable to properly seek food, shelter, or aid.

One of the more surprising findings in the report was that shelters that allow alcohol (aka wet shelters) saved both money and lives. Wet shelters are a part of the “harm reduction” strategy, which aims to meet substance abusers “where they are at” as opposed to immediately imposing sobriety. Although the long-term goal of the strategy is to stop substance abuse, the immediate goal is to improve overall wellness. The ECHO study looked at other cities that have used “harm reduction” methods. One of the programs is based in Ottawa, and the results from a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal indicate clear benefits for the individuals involved in the program:

  • the average daily consumption of alcoholic drinks dropped from 46 to 8;
  • most participants indicated they had improved qualities of sleep, personal hygiene, nutrition and health;
  • employees reported that 88% of participants complied with their prescription medication requirements;
  • problems with the police decreased by 51%; and,
  • trips to the emergency department decreased by 36%.

Seattle also implemented a “harm reduction” strategy by creating a program where seventy-five rooms were offered to “individuals placing the greatest financial strain on city resources” as part of their “harm reduction strategy.” The program has been successful in not only reducing alcohol consumption, but has also saved $1.8 million in emergency room visits alone.

To read more about the study’s findings, you can read the ECHO report here or the article in the Austin-American Statesman here.

If this can be implemented in the Lone Star State, why not here?


One Comment on New York Shitty Day Ender: Sweet Dreams

  1. KAA on Thu, 1st Sep 2011 10:24 pm
  2. The problem with ‘wet’ shelters is that, unless the are completely segregated, they do not provide a safe heaven for the sober population: I.e., The sober homeless are subjected to all manner of BS generated by the alcoholics. Don’t you think they have enough problems already ?

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