Pun Intended

Posted: April 7, 2008 in Discrimination, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Stereotypes

When I went out to grab a bite for lunch this afternoon, I saw a gentleman in a pick up truck. Beautiful paint job with custom detailing and a matching fiberglass cover over the truck bed. Fancy chrome wheels. ArmorAll shiny tires. The whole nine yards. It was a nice looking truck that caught the eye.

There was another thing that caught my eye as well – the driver himself. Just as he was getting ready to drive away I noticed that he lifted a can to his mouth and took a drink. It wasn’t a Diet Coke though. It was a beer.  

I don’t care that he was a beer drinker. A lot of people drink. It did bother me though that he was drinking and driving. Not only is it illegal, but it’s just plain dumb.

An article on eZine Articles website titled, "Drunk Driving Accidents" , states the following:

  • 25,000 people die each year in alcohol related accidents

  • 500 people are killed weekly and 71 people daily in alcohol related accidents

  • One American life is lost every 20 minutes in an alcohol related car crash

  • Every year, 708,000 persons are injured, 74,000 of them seriously, in alcohol related crashes

  • About 2,000 people receive injuries each day in alcohol related accidents

Those numbers make it clear to me that there are quite a large number of people who are drinking and driving. Even some of our favorite Hollywood stars keep getting caught drunk behind the wheel – all which we seem to be quite able to forgive, because after all they’re human like the rest of us, right?

On the other hand however, we seem to have no difficulty condemning a homeless person who has a substance abuse problem. In fact, we tend to think of most homeless people as being either drunkards or drug addicts. It’s stereotype that we’ve become comfortable clinging to.

It always seemed strange to me that so many people believe that every homeless person is a drunk. I’ve met more homeless who don’t use drugs or alcohol than I’ve met those who do.

I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty of homeless people who don’t want anything more than to just lay around getting drunk or high. But, there just aren’t as many as people think.

Part of the problem is that those homeless we tend to notice the most are those with the addictions. We see many of them on the streets of our communities. And, yes some homeless have become homeless due to their addictions. But contrary to what so many people believe about homelessness, addiction disorders are not the root cause of homelessness. The truth is that only about 26% of homeless individuals have an addiction disorder.

It turns out that the majority of the homeless – the ones we generally don’t notice – are just regular folks who are doing the best they can in a difficult and stressful situation. They aren’t lazy. They are derelicts. They do whatever they can to avoid creating a ruckus. The only difference between themselves and the rest of the community has to do with housing.

Some homeless actually develop their addictions AFTER they become homeless.

According to the Nat’l Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet, "Addiction Disorders and Homelessness" ,

"Another important aspect to consider is that many addiction issues arise while people are experiencing homelessness, rather than causing them to become homeless."

The reality is this: yes, there are people who find themselves homeless because of substance abuse, but there are an overwhelming majority of persons who have substance abuse problems and never become homeless.

And while we may not like it that there are homeless who just lay around in an alcohol or drug induced stupor, consider this: they aren’t the ones who are responsible for causing the 25,000 deaths each year in alcohol related accidents. Those deaths are being caused by people who have a vehicle and a place to live.

Perhaps it’s time we sobered up to that reality.

Pun intended.

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