Novel Coronavirus: Addiction and Homelessness

COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, doesn’t discriminate against the young or old, the healthy or sick, or those who have a home and those who do not. The homeless population in Mississippi, like many across the country, are faced with the same obstacles that they had before this virus, but now with an even greater threat to their lives.

There are over 1,000 homeless individuals in the Jackson Metropolitan area. The homeless is one of the most vulnerable groups facing this pandemic because with poverty comes lack of resources. Organizations are coming together during this time of crisis to help. Stewpot’s Opportunity Center is one of them. They usually serve as a day shelter that provides visitors a place to work on their resumes, job applications, and computer skills, but they now have opened it up as a night shelter for men. They also serve dinner every evening and breakfast 4 days a week. Each person’s temperature is taken at the door and each has to wash their hands.

This is definitely a step in the right direction, but many homeless people also face substance use disorders (SUDs) and mental health disorders. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, those that battle a SUD and are poor are at an increased risk for homelessness. Fighting those obstacles on top of another life-threatening illness like COVID-19 can be overwhelming for most people to handle.

Flattening the Curve and the Homeless

Those that have not been able to find a homeless shelter have only the woods or abandoned housing not suitable for human habitation to turn to. With these options come a lack of access to updated information regarding the coronavirus. The fact that many are not informed, coupled with substance abuse and/or mental health disorders, makes this group more likely not to practice social distancing and proper hygiene. And if they are actively using substances,  they don’t have the right mindset to make good choices about their overall well-being. Furthermore, they lack access to proper medical care or to a home to follow “stay-at-home” guidelines to decrease the spread of the coronavirus, and to therefore flatten the curve the way the nation is seeking to do.

Weakened Immune System and Substance Use

The novel coronavirus is highly contagious. It can be transmitted through a sneeze, a cough, or potentially the droplets of saliva (containing the virus) that a person releases from their mouth when talking. Those struggling with a SUD are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 due to their weakened immune system. Substance use suppresses the function of immune response cells. This increases the individual’s susceptibility to infectious diseases, according to American Addiction Centers’ Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lawrence Weinstein, MD, ABHM, FASAM, FAMA. Many homeless individuals travel or sit in groups, and with a weak immune system, this makes it easy to pass along the virus.Aerial view of oxford treatment center looking at the lake and main lodge

Oxford Treatment Center located in Etta, Mississippi has kept its doors open even through this pandemic. Our facility offers professional and safe medical detox, live-in rehabilitation, treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders, and outpatient services with compassionate professionals in a supportive environment. We even have telehealth addiction treatment available, which is a viable solution with the current circumstances in the country. You would be able to have services provided to you from the comfort of your own home. If you find yourself struggling with addiction and homelessness, Oxford Treatment Center is here to help you along your journey towards recovery.

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