Confronting Addiction In The Homeless

Homelessness can hit any of us at any time in our life. A wrong choice or a bad start in life, unemployment, addiction are all routes into what so often is a difficult time of life. Homeless people come from all walks of life from trades people to caterers; from bank managers to managing directors.

Many people who fall victim to homelessness and/or are vulnerable, of course have a great many skills, often circumstances and tragedies from the past have hid these. This often leaves the person's self esteem devalued. They may have been rejected by a society where we are always trying to be better, faster, cheaper, and more efficient. A rapid microwave society where if it does not work 'throw it away and buy a new one.' People that do not fit into what is considered 'acceptable' or 'normal' can find themselves discarded too. Sadly people today are so often dispensable as a younger 'more efficient' person takes their place.

The Way is aimed at giving people a new start in life, restoring them to effectiveness, recycling or rehabilitating them. In God's eyes none of us are worthless we are all valued in His sight. God wants to regenerate each one of us - Ezekiel Chap. 36 verses 25-27 and He began the process by sending His Son Jesus. God wants us to be free from our baggage and addictions so that we can serve Him; 2 Timothy Chap. 2 verse 21 "…a vessel for honour sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work."
Establishing a relationship with the person is at the root of the Gospel. With the woman at the well in John Chap. 4, Jesus spoke to her on her own territory. He offered her something she wanted. We have something other people want. Like the woman at the well sometimes these people don't even realise it is available.

The road to recovery, as we all know, is often a long slow process. Recovery is not an event, it happens over a period of time. This may even involve the person returning to their old way of life. For many people the struggle with their addictive behaviour can be a continual battle. We all have good days and bad days, then something happens and we lapse. As Christians we are all aware of the daily struggle to keep pressing on with God, but we all know that what ever happened yesterday, however close to God we were, today He can seem like a million miles away.

Rehabilitation and restoration can take a variety of forms. It can be undertaken in the community or for more complex problems, more intense treatment in a residential setting. Rehabilitation, in whatever form, is part of the strategy of the current Government. The rough sleepers unit has developed a number of key principles, one of which is: "Help rough sleepers become active members of the community - creating innovative and pragmatic approaches which build self esteem, bring on the talents and help individuals to become ready for work and occupation away from the streets."1

How many people might want to look at an alternative lifestyle? If we have 200 people who we are having contact with we may feel that we should have 200 people wanting to be rehabilitated. A lot of course depends on the person, and where they are at themselves. Some people are unaware of the options and it really does depend in some cases, on how we present it to them. Other people of course may not be at that stage where they are ready to take on change. They may still be at the pre-contemplative stage. They may require further information or motivational conversation.2

1 'Coming in from the Cold' HMO stationery office/DETR
2 'The theory of the cycle of change' Prochaska & DiClementi

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